“It's not that I've changed the way I do things,” says Maureen Karon, CMP, CMM, global meeting manager for Deloitte Touche Tohamatsu, in New York, who plans many small meetings every year globally. “But I tend to pay more attention now to different things. I'll want to know what security issues might arise, and I'll want to know what resources are available. So there's a lot more thinking about ‘What if?’ — not so much changing things as being prepared.”
Starting with Security
Security is much higher on the agenda post-9/11, but perhaps not high enough, according to security experts. “A security consultant should really be brought in at the time you choose your venue,” says Anthony Poveromo, president and founder of 21st Century Security Inc., based in Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn, N.Y. “We should be included in the earliest planning stages, even if it's just to confirm that you don't need security.” A security firm can provide background intelligence about the place you're going — for instance, whether events booked near yours might change the safety profile for you — that might otherwise not be obvious.
“We've talked to a lot of consultants,” says Audra T. Narikawa, meeting and event planner for the Capital Group Companies Inc., in Los Angeles. “We have someone who acts as a consultant to our company, and we get his thoughts on where to go and what to ask. We're not necessarily adding security services to our events on top of what's normally there, but we use the consultant as a pre-emptive measure.”
The problem is that security isn't free. Poveromo says budget concerns are the biggest impediment to adequate security planning — but an initial consultation should be possible at low cost, and it may save money down the road. Being frank with your security vendor about budget may allow you to negotiate on the less-important aspects and focus your spending where it will do the most good.
Whether or not you use an outside security consultant, do meet early on with the security director for your venue. They will know their local conditions, the likely risks, and will most likely be your liaison with available emergency, medical, police, and fire services. Find out how they handle evacuation of the facility, medical emergencies, and other possibilities. Include them in your contingency planning and make sure you know how to reach them at all times. A lot of planners are not so much adding their own security as making sure the venue security is adequate. “We put great emphasis on complementing whatever our destination's security arrangements are,” says Sandra Marcus, director of corporate events and conferences for IBM Software Group Inc.
In response, hoteliers are adding security to raise the comfort level for planners and attendees. “At Marriott, you'll see extra security throughout our hotels,” says Diane Kaufman, director of intermediary sales strategy for Marriott International Inc. “That's one thing we learned after 9/11. Even though we were running hotels at 30 percent occupancy, there were certain core features of our hotel that we would not cut back on. Security is one of them.”
“You can't exactly insure against terrorism,” says Jack M. Buttine, president of John Buttine Inc., a New York insurance brokerage that specializes in trade shows and media clients, “any more than you can insure against war. It's too broad. Insurance companies don't have the resources to issue blanket coverage against any risk that might result from either.” But you can insure against specific problems that may be caused by a terrorist incident or the outbreak of hostilities. Normal event insurance (cancellation insurance) often will cover the most important aspects of that risk.
Let's take a step back. Mostalready include what's called a clause, which relieves the parties of liability in the case of circumstances beyond their control: weather, political unrest, strikes, even major equipment failures. It's important to actually read those clauses. They may look like boilerplate, but they are not standard, and you need to know what's included. Planners are increasingly asking that their contracts cover acts of terrorism and war. Sensibly, hotels and other vendors are seeking to limit the definitions of what's a covered event. Don't expect to be let out of your obligations in Australia because a terrorist bombs a hotel in South America, or to be reimbursed for a cancellation in October because there was a rail strike in August.
The Terrorism Risk Insurance Act (TRIA), signed into law last November, apparently overrides terrorism exclusions in domestic insurance polices, but it applies only very narrowly outside the U.S., mainly to incidents involving U.S. airlines, embassies, and diplomatic missions. The Federal Government acts as reinsurer to back carriers up on those claims, but since the risk is unknown and TRIA is largely untested, it's hard to judge its impact on premiums and payouts. At this stage it's best to ask your insurance broker for an explicit and detailed breakdown of what's covered and what's not.
Insurance costs have gone up, but ironically, this is more a product of the economy than of war. The cost of paying insurance claims is traditionally offset by investment income, explains Buttine. But with the stock market in a slump, investments aren't providing adequate return, and as a result, premiums are going up. Buttine says, however, that insurance is not the place to scrimp, whether terrorism is covered or not. “You still have the same old threats — bad weather, strikes, riots, fires — and you still need insurance for them.”
And whereas last year, getting cancellation insurance that covered terrorism was next to impossible — only AON's “Show Stoppers” coverage would indemnify for losses caused by a terrorist act — due to TRIA and customer demand, terrorism clauses turn up in quite a number of policies today. The need for this type of coverage, however, varies tremendously with each meeting. “We're doing a meeting in London in June,” says Narikawa, “and we're looking into insurance for this meeting, in case we have to cancel. I'm also getting quotes on travel insurance — in case flights are canceled, but the meeting isn't.”