Security is a big issue for the event industry. Most stakeholders have developed a risk management plan but as the list of threats to the industry continues to grow, there is a need to ensure these processes are transparent, consistent and up-to-date.
The groundwork in establishing clearly-defined roles, training that is focused on the venue and nature of event, relationships with the city and state security apparatus and maintaining a relevant risk management plan, is of paramount importance in building confidence should an emergency arise.
Risk management is best handled by allowing the event management team to execute the meeting while a separate team is dedicated to implementing the emergency response plan so that in case of a crisis, a management control centre can activated for immediate support.
Some of the flash points that need to be covered with comprehensive control processes in place are communication lines between all operatives, constant interface with the local security agencies, vetting of transporters, monitoring of participants during the journey and entry while all frontline operatives outside and inside the venue must have clear understanding of evacuation and alternative routes.
The sudden outbreak of the avian flu virus in Thailand a few years ago almost jeopardised a large event to be held in Bangkok. Travel advisories were issued by several countries and delegates were making nervous enquiries about the viability of long haul travel to the destination. The event managers addressed the root of the problem and eliminated all poultry products including meat and eggs from the menu. All existing stock of such products was done away with in participating hotels. Even sandwiches and salads at counters at the venue would stock fish, beef, fruits and vegetables. Signage was displayed prominently at the venue and hotels that no poultry product was being served. Official communication to this effect was sent out to the delegates stating the ban on potentially dangerous edible products. Importantly, constant checks on food inventory, was made leading up to the date of the event.
Gorav Arora, director sales and marketing at Novotel Hyderabad Convention Centre, says: “We are completely in sync with local authorities and security agencies in the state, at the national level and even at the international level for better preparedness at our venue. Our security team has action plans in place and are constantly in touch with other stakeholders for mutual updates. Sensitivity in matters of security and contingency planning allows us to host large conferences without undue worr,y even in turbulent times.”
Bert Chamrernnusit, country manager of Pacific World Thailand, said: “Building a strong relationship with the local authorities has always been a priority 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.”
A review of the realities of the crisis may be critical. I was attending an event in Istanbul when a part of the city was hit by a bomb blast – a terrorist attack. While attendees were evacuated under strict surveillance to their respective hotels, the crisis management team went into a huddle to determine if the next day’s events should be cancelled and the conference called off. By late evening sufficient information from the government agencies had emerged to assure the convention bureau as well as the event organisers that there was no direct threat either to the venue or the delegates, who were mostly international. A decision was made to continue what was slated to be the last day of the event. Although added security measures were employed immediately, the concluding events went off without any mishap.
Risk and crisis management training is no longer optional. It is mandatory for today’s world when the corporate sector demands such detail. Event organisers without such a plan should plan for a future without clients.
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