Events in Crisis: You Need a Plan

Super Storm Sandy - US Navy
NEW YORK (Nov. 7, 2012) Seabees assigned to Naval Mobile Construction Battalion (NMCB) 11, from Gulfport, Miss., operate a skid steer to remove debris from a residential road during Hurricane Sandy relief efforts in Staten Island, N.Y., ahead of a forecasted storm. NMCB-11 is operating under the U.S. Northern Command Defense Support of Civil Authorities mission, working closely with civil authorities and the Federal Emergency Management Agency following the destruction caused by Hurricane Sandy. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Martin Cuaron/Released)

We can’t predict the future. We can, however, prepare ourselves for a few of the more likely crises situations. Take into consideration the well-known (to event planners, at least) question, “What do earthquakes and the Olympics have in common?”

Answer: Potential disaster!

The best insurance you can have for large-scale events is to have a well-thought out plan. In fact, many crises, at their root, call for many of the same types of action. Whether it’s an unexpected weather-related disaster, injury or even death, go ahead and consider the possibilities as an event planner.

When planning a crisis management plan for your event, consider the following steps.


1. Your Team

Whether your primary event team is comprised of volunteers you’ve just met or staff that you’ve worked with for ages, take into mind how your team will divide and conquer. When designing your crisis management plan, go ahead and assign tasks to specific people, if possible. This way, there will be no question of who is doing what.

2. Risk Assessment

Professional crisis planners will tell you this is one of the most important steps in creating a crisis management plan. Sit down with your colleagues (with an open mind) and have a very candid brainstorming session discussing the event’s biggest threats. Perhaps you live in an area that is known for seasonal tornadoes. Is your event the center of a controversial campaign or idea? Talk about it.

Generally these are the conversations that no one wants to have, but in order to be ready it’s necessary. Also, be realistic.

3. Develop Your Plan

Start with a general outline and go from there. Use as many resources as possible. Although every crisis management plan will differ, the basics will include the following:

  • Local and regional emergency personnel contact information
  • Evacuation routes
  • A designated area or room where emergency medical supplies will be available
  • Responsibilities of individuals or teams. Branch out here. Create local emergency services contacts and coordinate your plan with theirs
  • Designation of a spokesperson (have a backup)
  • Communication plan (i.e. how will you communicate with your team and with the public?)

4. Prepare your team

Go over your plan with your event team and explicitly discuss as many details as possible. If possible, do a dry run and practice the plan. This is a great way to work out some of the kinks.

Although your crisis management plan is not completely rewarded unless you’re actually faced with a crisis, everyone involved will be prepared and, as the event planner, you should sleep a bit better at night. We can cross our fingers, wish on a star or perform any other good luck charms, but the best “luck” comes from being ready for disaster when it strikes.

Stay tuned for a follow-up of how to reassemble the pieces of your organization when it actually does face a crisis.

What can you add to make our plan more comprehensive? Share in the comments section.