A Sense of Security

There was a time when we never worried about terror attacks, bombings or shootings at places people gather.  Now planners and companies have to make security during an event a top concern. While no one can plan for every contingency at a meeting, a careful analysis of your event will help determine the priority for security and risk management during a program.

As we have witnessed just these past few months with terror attacks in the UK, Barcelona and this week in New York City, the most recent tragic mass shooting in Las Vegas, Hurricane Harvey in Texas and Louisiana, Hurricanes Irma and Maria spreading from the Caribbean up through the Southeast US plus the raging fires in Northern California an emergency can happen anywhere, anytime.

On a different level altogether, you might even consider an emergency a group that has overstayed their welcome at your chosen hotel.  We had a client go through this earlier this year with a king from a foreign country and his extended family taking up hotel residency and the hotel was unable to move them therefore impacting the client’s program and arrivals and causing a very last minute relocation to another hotel in the same destination.

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. Recent events have shown there is an increased importance for meeting planners to expect the unexpected.   When it comes to risk mitigation and emergency preparedness, natural, accidental or intentional disasters can be traumatic for all involved and as best we try, we may never be completely prepared for what may occur.

Recently during our annual company conference in August – AlliedPRA Together, a group of AlliedPRA team members participated in an AlliedPRA-sponsored security workshop to dive deeper into the world of risk management and review our current processes and procedures. The team studied our emergency contingency plans of incident management, communications, crowd control, and situational awareness. From bomb threats to workplace violence including active shooters, the team was given tools and resources to develop the best plan to ensure attendees are cared for and kept informed during an incident. Through role-playing and tabletop exercises, the team was well-versed on how to handle these types of situations.

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.

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 additional insurance coverage.  It’s a guarantee that every aspect of the program will have the right level of experience and emergency preparedness in place so when external factors strike, the program will be managed, informed and frequent communication will occur throughout the program.

Important steps we take to ensure we are prepared when an emergency occurs:

Before a crisis happens, the best tool is preparedness.  Each AlliedPRA office 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. We need to quickly make the decisions on what 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. 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. We also 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 to prevent a recurrence or to respond even better? If anyone affected has outstanding issues, who should they contact?

AlliedPRA has come across our fair share of emergency situations that require advanced expertise and prepared skill sets.  From hurricanes and ice-storms that have crippled cities during program operations to terrorist attacks at home and abroad, we’ve dealt with these emergency situations on a very personal level—it has always been our main concern that those affected are comforted knowing AlliedPRA is by their side.