Crisis management: how to prepare for emergency scenarios

Marty MacKay, DMCP and president of Hosts Global Alliance of DMCs, outlined a comprehensive strategy on tackling crisis management at the Global Incentive Summit at the Balmoral in Edinburgh.

This key area is often overlooked, MacKay suggested, and more needs to be done – not once – but many times over. Emergency preparedness is a continuous cycle, she said. A detailed plan needs to be thought out well before planning an event to avoid potential disasters. It involves “organising, training, equipping, exercising, evaluating and taking corrective action in an effort to ensure effective coordination during incident response,” she said.

“Despite everything that goes on in our crazy world, meetings continue – we just need to be prepared. Risk management is done in silos which is not effective. You need to break down the silos. Everyone must come together – the hotel, the DMC, the planner. It’s important we are all talking about emergency preparedness, to come together and to share a comprehensive plan.”

When most people think of crisis management, thoughts turn to the active shooter, terrorism, strikes and natural disasters.  However, risk management also includes food poisoning, or the person who trips and falls off the bus. “All of these things are what you should have protocols in place for. It’s the everyday things,” MacKay said.

Steps to take include preparing in advance and gathering as much information as possible about the location and destination of the event. Understand the potential hazards and what can impact the event. Responses need to be identified such as evacuation, where to shelter or to have a lockdown.

The three major factors of risk management are general fear, food & beverage safety, as well as physical safety. In the event of a crisis, people can freeze and go into shock. Training beforehand can assist in mitigating this as well as helping staff identify likely hazards.

MacKay said it was necessary to identify “triggers” which would alert staff of when a plan would be activated. This also includes identifying the member of staff responsible for delivering the message to delegates and informing the authorities.

This makes acting in a crisis “much easier – if the winds get to this speed, we are going to move it inside. If the hurricane gets to be category X this is when we send people home – we need to make the right and safe choices. We’ve all seen what happens when those decisions are not made in a timely fashion.”

During the Q&A after the presentation, two attendees spoke of incidents regarding domestic violence. In one instance, the violent partner was removed from the incentive and were responsible for making their own way home. It’s important to know what your company’s HR policy is – as well as finding out the client’s policy regarding unprofessional behaviour of their employees. “If there are incidents of physical abuse, you need to respond to behaviour that is dangerous or inappropriate. Follow up by reporting the incident to the authorities so it goes through the correct channels to deal with it,” MacKay said.

The Association of Destination Management Executives International (ADMEI) offers an Emergency Preparedness Certificate Programme (EPCP), which covers key themes and practical advice for DMCs and event planners.