19 Sep Off
In these times of uncertainty, with an increasing number of incidents occurring globally, risk management has emerged as one of the key priorities when planning for an event.
Safety is a big issue for all organisations from event planners, meeting venues to hotels that are part of any event. Most have developed an internal risk management plan but as the list of threats to the industry continues to grow, there is a need to ensure that these processes are transparent, consistent and up-to-date.
This three-part case study is based on some of Pacific World’s recent events and managing the after-effects from unexpected crises.
1. Planning for safety at large-scale events
What does it take to organise an event for 50,000 delegates? That becomes more complicated when incidents occur while they are on the move. What are the considerations when planning communication channels for delegates when they are offsite?
Pacific World was the official Service Provider for transportation and excursions at the 2016 Rotary International Convention in South Korea that opened to 50,000 registrants. The confirmation of high profile attendees – UN Secretary General, Prime Ministers of South Korea and Sri Lanka – one week prior to the event in Seoul and Goyang City resulted in multiple last minute adjustments to the transportation, access and parking plans that would be impacted by the motorcades and security details of VIPs.
All the guides who were activated for the Rotary Convention were required to undergo pre-event training. Apart from that, emergency guide packs were also distributed to them with critical information to track the status of the delegates for any accident, sickness or serious crisis.
Good communication is critical when situations arise; it must be clear whose Emergency Response Plans will come in play – the client, supplier or the venue. A designated spokesperson should be in charge of communicating with the authorities and decision makers to avoid any confusion.
With a large number of delegates involved, contingency plans were in place to be able to locate them en route between venues or if the group were split up. In this case, walkie-talkies were issued with channels for special announcements.
Messenger chats were also set up for each individual route to facilitate coordination among the hundreds of buses involved.
Kara Ottum, Transportation Supervisor – International Meetings at Rotary International said, “Many meetings and adjustments were made seamlessly. Moreover when volunteer traffic officers failed to show up, Pacific World stepped in with the transportation companies to handle the situation immediately and hired private traffic control professionals for the duration of the event.”
2. Is the industry equipped to handle a crisis?
When a crisis hits, even with the best planning things can take a turn for the unknown. Laying the proper groundwork that include establishing clear roles, training, building relationships with the authorities and maintaining a relevant risk management plan will help to build confidence when the situation may seem out of control.
Selina Chavry, Global Managing Director, Pacific World commented on establishing a sound risk management framework, “Safety is such an integral part of our operations as we are responsible for a large number of delegates and clients across different markets. We have a detailed emergency response plan and contingencies for every scenario yet we still encounter situations that are unprecedented. But we can control how ready we are and how quickly we react to any given situation, that is why we are so committed to our risk management practices.”
Risk management strategies are more successful if there are two separate teams on the ground for events. One team should be responsible for focusing on the successful delivery of the conference or event with a separate team dedicated to implementing the emergency response plan when required. In case of a major crisis, an Emergency Operations Centre will be activated for immediate support.
Some useful items for building a checklist for crisis management:
- Do we have the means to communicate with someone in the office? Is there a process to ensure this?
- Do we have all the facts (as opposed to speculation)?
- Do we have a working relationship with the authorities? Which are the parties involved?
- Are transport companies checked before hiring?
- Are guests monitored during their journey?
- In case of an emergency, are drivers aware of the pre-determined evacuation routes?
- What are the roles and functions of all security personnel?
3. How to work effectively with local authorities for first-hand information
Results from a recent global Destination Index identified Thailand as one of the top destinations in Asia despite the nation having its share of incidents over the years. How quickly tourism rebounded each time is a testament to the crisis resolution capabilities of the local authorities. Meeting and event planners need to have the expertise to make the decision if an event should go on or to fall back on the contingency plans.
For a group that was scheduled to arrive from the United Kingdom to Koh Samui, reports of rising flood waters raised questions of whether the event should be cancelled. The situation was closely monitored amid discussions with the hotels and suppliers. Eventually the Pacific World team advised the client to relocate the event due to the flooding being too close to the hotel. The entire programme was mirrored in Hua Hin with one day’s notice after negotiations with the hotel chain to relocate to a sister property.
In another scenario, bomb blasts prompted the organising team to review the impact on an upcoming programme. Meetings were set up with the convention bureau and metropolitan office to map out the locations that were affected. For the safety of the client, the event was eventually relocated as investigations into the blasts were still underway.
While a situation is unfolding, maintain contact with the local authorities such as the convention bureau, airport and the metropolitan office. It is important to keep to the facts of what is happening and know the security measures that are in place. If the event is to proceed, event planners have to be mindful of the evacuation plans for airline assistance and evacuation transport routes.
Bert Chamrernnusit, Country Manager, Pacific World Thailand said, “Building a strong relationship with the local authorities has always been one of our priorities and ultimately we have the same goal – to ensure the well-being of our guests during their stay in the country. Communication lines were always clear, allowing us to quickly obtain first-hand information so that we could move into our next actions.”