Can you really plan for a crisis?

It’s been quite a couple of weeks for our country with the back to back lashing of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma. Not to mention we have Jose sitting out in the ocean not knowing, quite yet, which way he is headed. The devastation we have all seen on the news is something I can’t quite imagine as I have not lived through anything like this in my lifetime. It has brought up something for me though related to event planning and that is: can you really plan for a crisis?

The answer to this is yes AND no.


Make sure you have a plan in place. Even the smallest details can help in time of crisis. Photo by Štefan Štefančík on Unsplash

Yes, you can plan for a crisis by simply purchasing event insurance and making sure that you have a plan in place. That plan should include information about the closest hospital; what you will do for attendees if they are stranded with you and what you can do for them if they aren’t quite there yet and stuck traveling; emergency contact information for your attendees; a back up plan to communicate; what will the property do in case of emergencies? What is their contingency plan. You can ask and should ask NO MATTER THE SIZE OF YOUR GROUP! Most contracts you sign should include a force majeure clause and include ‘acts of god’ which weather would fall into place and there would also be a provision for those traveling to the event are they hindered from attending. Most importantly make sure that you have your legal counsel review! Show that you’ve done your due diligence. In my 9 years with one organization we did not purchase event insurance, mostly because we were priced out. It is rather expensive however, we were diligent about where we would book and the season taking into account city-wide events happening in and around the area.

If you simply plan small events at your own house for your company or event at a local restaurant or facility you need to be asking the same types of questions and make sure you have a way to communicate in case of emergency. Make sure you have the proper insurances set up for your business.

Let’s talk weather. You can certainly try to plan in advance when it comes to the weather. Perhaps you do cruise meetings. I would say you might want to book the Caribbean in an off season not during the typical hurricane season (august-november). Are you planning for a meeting in the mountains of CO during December or January-one of their peak times for snow? You would want to plan in advance for inclement weather. Take into account where your attendees are traveling from and will it be easy for them to re-book or catch a different flight? A crisis isn’t simply hurricane related, it can come down to ‘acts of terror’ that we have seen happen all over the world lately.

And NO, you can’t plan for a crisis. Most of the time the crisis’ we see aren’t ones in which we can plan for making it harder to justify spending the time to put a contingency plan in place–just in case. It’s been 16 years since 9/11 and no one could have planned for that type of event to happen in and to our country. I was reminded yesterday on the anniversary that earlier that morning (16 years ago) I was in my conference room preparing name badges for a Judicial dinner function. We were welcoming high profile attendees and many judges from across the state of VA and as we were putting the badges together we just happened to have the TV on. You know the big ‘boob tube’ type sitting on a cart with a VHS machine beneath. I think we were all in shock not knowing what was occurring however, we realized immediately that our event would need to be cancelled. We did what we could in the short amount of time we had before being escorted out of our government building for fear that an attack would happen there. There was no way to prepare for something of that nature. We did however, have a plan in place to talk to one another and the hotel.

This past week with all the models showing so many different tracks there wasn’t any easy way to prepare for the effect of Irma on Florida and some of the surrounding states. It wasn’t until late in the week that we even saw that the local airports and some of the major attractions in the Orlando area had closed. So, really it’s not easy to prepare for a crisis but there are small steps we can take to make sure we stay on top of anything that could be a disruption to our events.

Be diligent, make sure you know what’s happening around your event locally, regionally, and nationally. Try to prepare your teams the best way you can and provide the most amount of resources. We live in a digital world–do you even remember your plan of action when there were no cell phones or digital way to communicate? Make that plan now–your attendees and staff will thank you for it god forbid you have to implement.


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