Expect the Unexpected
When a Crisis Happens Are You Prepared?
As we have witnessed in recent weeks, an emergency can happen anywhere, anytime. From terrorist attacks to natural disasters to weather-related challenges, our destinations and lives can change in an instant. Because of the nature of the DMC business – we move and “touch” thousands of people every year. The events in California and Paris have shown there is an increased importance for meeting planners to expect the unexpected when it comes to risk mitigation and emergency preparedness. Disasters, whether they be natural, accidental or intentional, can be traumatic for all involved and as best we try, we may never be completely prepared for what may occur.
In an emergency, savvy local partners are a planner’s best resource when a program is underway. As destination experts have shown, time and again, the connections that local suppliers bring to the table are invaluable. When emergencies happen during a program, the best partner a meeting planner has is the team of dedicated suppliers managing the event.
“With emergencies, you have to be prepared for anything and everything,” shared Patrick Sullivan, President, AlliedPRA New York. “You have to keep the client informed on a constant basis, whether by text, phone, whatever. We’re basically their right hand when they’re in our city, so we have to be the guiding force and trusted partner for decision making in these situations.”
When it comes to rallying unexpected support from local suppliers such as hotels, restaurants, transportation companies, caterers, and smaller entertainment venues, a destination management company is a vital part in the meeting planner’s resources. Running a program with AlliedPRA is like buying the additional insurance on a new appliance. It’s a guarantee that every aspect of the program will have the right level of experience, emergency preparedness plans will be in place, external factors that may influence the program will be managed and informed and frequent communication will occur throughout the program.
“Our strong relationships with our local partners are key when it comes to putting contingency plans into action,” commented Amy Johnson, CMP, DMCP, President, AlliedPRA Atlanta. “We know the right people to contact for additional resources, situational insights and options for program adjustments to ensure we are doing our part for the safety and well-being of each group.”
Below are important steps we take to ensure we are prepared when an emergency occurs:
Preparedness – Before a crisis happens, the best tool is preparedness.
- Each AlliedPRA offices has an Emergency Preparedness and Response Plan (EPRP) in place to address any level of disaster or service interruption that may arise prior to or during program operation. This plan is designed specifically to ensure the highest level of safety, comfort and care of our clients, their guests, our supplier partners and our employees.
Emergency Occurs Before the Program
- We alert team members if an emergency occurs to make the decisions on what action and to what extent of action is taken due to an emergency; evaluate the criteria; identify communication methods; contact city agencies to get an assessment of the damage and impact.
- Next, we work closely with our clients to communicate information and make decisions regarding the impact to their programs.
Emergency during Program
- Management. The response to the unexpected sets the tone for the group and the situation. We immediately assign a point person and key members of the emergency management team to spearhead leadership and decision making authority. We also set up a command center, whether onsite at the hotel where program is operating or another designated space to act as the central point of command.
- Communicate. While we may not have answers or solutions to every question or issue during the initial moment of the event, AlliedPRA commits to regular updates to our client, their attendees and other stakeholders to reassure everyone that we are managing the situation and working quickly on solutions. Immediate and constant communication during such an event is one of the most crucial elements of a successful plan.
- Compassion. People may be hurt, hopes and expectations shattered, livelihoods threatened, lives and property lost. But at the end of the day, we’re a business about people, and during an emergency, it is the people that matter the most.
- Next steps. Working with our clients, we make decisions on what action is taken due to the emergency situation. Evaluate the following and determine communication methods:
- Safety – is it safe to begin/continue the meeting?
- Communication modes available
- Status of all program facilities
- Transportation available
- Evacuation of area
- Determine course of action and communicate
- Ongoing communication. We communicate major decisions to all staff, attendees and suppliers, and keep an open line of communication for ongoing decision making. Depending on the severity of the emergency, we arrange for other assistive services or counseling.
After an Emergency
- Follow-up. It is AlliedPRA’s job to ensure all people impacted – clients, guests, employees, etc. – are in a safe and stable situation. Determine if ongoing support or assistance for any of them is needed. Thoroughly document the emergency, what happened, the people impacted, the response and outcome.
- Communication. Just as communication is key during an emergency, follow-up communication is equally important. How has the issue been resolved? What lessons have been learned or what changes will be made in the future to prevent a recurrence or to respond even better? If anyone affected has outstanding issues, who should they contact?
Given the sheer number of years we’ve operated an award-winning destination management company, AlliedPRA has come across our fair share of emergency situations that require advanced expertise and prepared skill sets. From blizzards and ice-storms that have crippled cities during program operations, to volcanic eruptions in Iceland which temporarily halted travel, to terrorist attacks at home and abroad, we’ve dealt with these emergency situations on a very personal level, while many of our offices jumped into immediate action to assist clients with contingency plans.
AlliedPRA’s multitude of processes – from response plans, to staff and guide training, to checklists, to our local contacts – allow us to be well-prepared to handle emergency situations.
It is important to have a trusted partner who is well-equipped to handle these type of incidents. To learn more about AlliedPRA’s Risk Mitigation Processes, CLICK HERE or reach out to any of our destinations. We’re here to help.