A few weeks ago, when you couldn’t turn on the news without hearing about the impending Hurricane Florence, BCD Meetings & Events had a group of 2,000 attendees and exhibitors headed to Maryland.
“Our employees are trained and developed to find solutions and manage and research ‘what if’ scenarios in pressured situations,” says Cat Butler, director of operations for project and on-site management. “With all the crises—volcanoes in Hawaii to wildfires on the West Coast—being ready to deal with the unexpected is part of the expertise we provide for our clients. Having a crisis management plan in place and a team trained on how to deal with these situations is what sets you up for success.” Butler also recommends the following strategies for crisis management in the event of a natural disaster.
Monitor in Real-Time
“From the first sightings, our team began monitoring Florence and kept our client and attendees informed with regular factual updates built out from a robust communication plan,” explains Butler. Fortunately, the venue, Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center, is on its own power grid, sits above river flood levels, and confirmed it had access to food and water to sustain attendees for a week if attendees were stuck in place. These were considerable deciding factors in the continuation of the program. Plus, two days out, Florence took a more southern turn and trailed away Washington, DC.”
Develop Chain of Command
A key ingredient in BCD M&E’s 24/7 crisis management is having a pre-set chain of command and procedures so information is gathered and streamlined efficiently between teams. The duty manager is a linchpin and the first responder to the on-site team. Based at the home office, Butler says he/she “is removed from the emotions on-site and can see the situation from a more objective point of view.”
The planning team immediately reached out via the event app and email to drive engagement for the program. While on-site, the client assured attendees that BDC was monitoring the storm (and alternative routings in case of disruptions to travel) so they could focus on the event.
In the end, all of the vendors participated in BCD’s event, and only 11 percent of attendees traveling from the Carolinas didn’t make it. Plus, despite having the storm slated to hit the area on the last day, 90 percent of attendees stayed until the very end. “Our client praised our communication plan,” Butler says, “and considering the challenges, they were extremely happy with the outcome.”