Why your meeting needs a safety plan

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Here's a guest blog from Josh Marx, director of marketing with American Meetings, Inc., on a subject near and dear to my heart: Risk management. Take it away, Josh!

When meeting planners think of forming a contingency or safety plan for their next meeting, they usually have a feeling of being overwhelmed. Industry experts say meeting planners who ask a large amount of questions and do the proper research should be able to put together a plan with ease. Remember, it’s vital for every meeting or event to have a safety plan in place!

The first step in preparing any safety plan for an event, meeting or conference is trying to envision all the problems that could arise. 99% of all issues that could arise are in the following four categories:

• Natural Disasters and storms

• Accidents and medical issue

• Technology and computers

• Human frailty and crime

The second step is to decide what you need to know about a certain meeting destination while performing a site inspection. While inspecting a meeting location don’t be afraid to ask questions such as “What happens if the water suddenly stops working or if there is a power outage?” You may also want to know what emergency plans have been put into place for previous meetings. Andy McNeill, AMI's CEO, stated, “When performing an onsite inspection for a meeting destination, you must be extremely thorough. Ask as many questions as you want to make sure you have a resolution to a problem if it does occur.”

Another important consideration is contracting. Make sure you think ahead when signing a contract with a venue or hotel. McNeill recalls in 2006 when Hurricane Charlie came roaring through Southwest and Central Florida. AMI had 500 attendees at a conference in Orlando. “We had stipulated in the contract a clause that we could postpone the meeting as the hurricane approached with no penalty. Thank goodness we did. We saved the client over $55,000 in lost food/beverage and accommodation charges”. Most venues are willing to include this stipulation, especially during the negotiation process.

Here is an example of an addendum you can put into any contract:

Safety of Attendees In the event the program is moved or delayed because of an act of God, war, acts of terrorism, government regulations, disaster, strikes, civil disorder, or curtailment of transportation facilities, hotel will enact a safety plan to ensure the safety of the attendees. To the extent that such circumstance makes possible for the Hotel to provide, at the Hotel facilities. The ability to terminate this Agreement without liability pursuant to this paragraph is conditioned upon delivery of written notice to the other party setting forth the basis for such termination as soon as reasonably practical - but in no event longer than ten (10) days - after learning of such basis; however in the case of postponement or movement of program, there will be no fees associated with the change of program.

Meeting planners should not feel paralyzed when putting a safety plan together. No one is perfect, but being prepared as possible for unseen problems is always a good rule of thumb. Not having a safety plan in place for any meeting or event is not a risk you want to take. You may not need one 99 times out or 100, but the one time you don’t have one in place will be the time you need it!

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