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Are you ready for a disaster?

By: MPI Toronto | Apr 25, 2019

risk We don’t often think of disasters in Ontario, especially in a major city like Toronto yet major flooding, ice storms and power outages have all occurred in the last few months.  We shrug off disasters as improbable, and shy away from directly communicating emergency information or risk, with a view to not worry attendees. 

As event planners and event hosts we pride ourselves on delivering an exceptional guest experience.  Yet, most of us have no formal plans in place to support attendees or staff during or after a disaster.  Consider interruption of food, water and fuel deliveries combined with panic and confusion.   What business continuity strategies do you have in place to mitigate impact?

But, the City or Provincial Government will help us. Right?

Not exactly. Local governments are responsible for the safety and security of residents during and emergency – not visitors to the City.  Regional and local government’s primary focus is on emergency response, while stabilizing critical infrastructure like highways, bridges and communications towers, and visitors are often an after-thought. Moving people, goods and equipment is not immediately possible.  Emergencies can escalate rapidly as highways become congested, fuel supplies quickly exhausted, and communications limited.  Now imagine your event was in the middle and most attendees do not have access to a vehicle.  Do you have an emergency response plan to evacuate or move large groups of attendees if needed?

Leadership

Visitors are unfamiliar with our communities, therefore as an industry we have a responsibility to ensure our attendees know what to do, where to go and how to get there.  Attendees look to event managers for guidance in times of disaster.  Radio silence is NOT a plan!  Messages regarding safety will be led by emergency services, however event managers must also communicate event-specific information.  Are all events cancelled? Will attendees receive a refund? Can attendees stay in the hotels (if travel is prohibited)? Consider the questions you would have in an unfamiliar city during an emergency – and answer those first.  Broad text messages or social media (with a web link) can be effective ways to communicate information quickly.   

Join me at the MPI Toronto Chapter May 15 Emergency Preparedness and Crisis Communication workshop at The Broadview Hotel to learn how to be the best, at planning for the worst.   This eye-opening session is a must for all industry professionals.

What you can do to prepare your event for disaster

  • Do you expect your event staff to remain on-site immediately following a disaster? How have you communicated this?
  • Does your venue require staff to remain on-site immediately following a disaster?
  • Could your venue be used in the event of an emergency?Are you prepared to take on additional guests? Liaise with your local government authority to integrate your plans.
  • Do you include information on seasonal hazards (wildfires, flooding, tornadoes etc.) in your attendee information package?
  • Do you have basic first aid supplies for your staff and attendees?Plan for maximum occupancy in the height of the season.
  • How will you communicate with attendees in the event of an emergency?
  • If an evacuation is necessary – does your entire team know how and where to direct attendees?
  • Have your (non-fire drill) plans been tested?
  • Has your website been insulated to allow for a massive spike in traffic?Plan for 100 times the normal traffic.

Jenn+Houtby-FergusonAbout the writer:

Jenn Houtby-Ferguson, is the Chief Strategist with Twist Consulting, a disaster communications nerd and ready to help the industry be ready. #BePreparedNotScared.

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