Last month Hurricane Harvey dropped unprecedented amounts of rain along the Texas and Louisiana coasts, causing record flooding that left thousands of people homeless.
As the cleanup efforts were getting underway, Hurricane Irma delivered a devastating blow to Florida. A few days later, a magnitude 7.1 earthquake brought destruction to Mexico City. And last week, Hurricane Maria made a direct hit on Puerto Rico, leaving the entire island without essential services.
If the natural disasters of the past several weeks have taught us anything, it may be that we live in uncertain times, and can never be too prepared for the unthinkable.
Is disaster preparedness a part of your event planning routine? If not, here are some things you should consider.
Prepare for Minor Emergencies
Hopefully, you’ll never have to deal with anything like a hurricane or earthquake at your events, but you should have a rock-solid plan for minor emergencies.
When selecting event venues, talk with the owners and managers about their emergency preparedness and procedures. But don’t rely on those alone. It’s also a good idea to know the location and contact information for the local fire station, police department and nearby hospitals and health clinics. You should also be sure that your staff, presenters, and entertainers have access to these, and that everyone knows exactly what is and isn’t expected of them in the event of an emergency.
Take Extra Precautions for Large and Unusual Events
Small events held in familiar surroundings typically require less emergency planning. But larger events, those that involve riskier activities and those that take place in more remote or disaster-prone locations demand extra planning. The Impression Group South founder and president Jack Nolan says, “We often have a fire marshal on-site and always have EMS personnel and an ambulance when there are more than 500 guests.”
Document your Emergency Action Plan
As an event planner, you know how important it is to document everything ahead of time. When it comes to your emergency action plan, you should focus on making your documentation as unambiguous and concise as possible. This sample flow chart by the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency is a great example.
Image credit: Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency
Have a Communications Contingency Plan
Remember the “good old days” when walkie-talkies were an essential tool for any successful event? Although they’re not the preferred means of communication for events, they can be a lifesaver (literally) in the event of a natural or manmade disaster. Two-way radios have come down in price in recent years, and they can also be rented. Chances are, you won’t need them, but as with everything else in your emergency action plan, the idea is to hope for the best and plan for the worst.
Attention Retreat and Conference Center Owners and Managers