Considerations for Meetings Affected by Natural Disaster
Planning ahead goes hand-in-hand with meeting planning. To mitigate risk, seasoned meeting planners make it a point to be as prepared as possible. The most obvious consideration is to ensure that event contracts protect their organizations in case of emergencies due to extreme weather and natural disasters. Here are a few things to consider when expecting the unexpected:
Consideration #1: Is there a Force Majeure Clause in your contract?
Most hotel and meeting venue contracts will contain a Force Majeure clause. If yours doesn’t, you should add it. The clause will protect both parties in the event that a natural and unavoidable catastrophe occurs. It will also allow the venue to reschedule and for the meeting planner to avoid cancellation penalties due to natural disasters.
Consideration #2: Do you have back-up plans?
Natural disasters can occur anywhere; not only at your event location. Your keynote speaker may live in a city affected by severe flooding with no access to clear roads the day his flight was to leave for your event. Your sponsor signage may be in a warehouse engulfed in flames due to a forest fire. Your meeting may be in St. Louis but half of your attendees may be from Florida which is under hurricane watch. Having back-up plans for different scenarios will help to navigate through natural disasters no matter where they are.
Consideration #3: Avoid booking venues prone to disaster.
Hurricane Season generally occurs between June and November, with the most activity in August and September. If your event falls during this time, try to avoid holding it in a city that might be affected – coastal towns, islands, etc. Resources such as Hurricane City can provide historical hurricane statistics to assist you in your search.
Consideration #4: Have a crisis management event plan.
Other natural disasters such as mudslides, forest fires, tornados, and volcano eruptions may be a little more difficult to predict. Emergency situations may arise during your event. Therefore, it is important that meeting planners are familiar with the venue’s emergency evacuation procedures. Consider coordinating a pre-event walk-through and contacting the local fire marshal for input on your specific event’s crisis management plan. Many event planners collect emergency contact information for speakers, sponsors, and attendees. Keep emergency contact information handy as well. Better to be safe than sorry.
An emergency plans put safety first. However, effective communication is also critical in emergency situations. If a crisis occurs during your event, ensure that you have a way to communicate emergency procedures to attendees, presenters, and vendors alike. Additionally, be sure that someone on your staff is skilled at crisis communications. Remaining calm while assertive does not come naturally to everyone. Your crisis management leader must be educated in the plan and be prepared to lead your team through onsite crises.