I lived and worked in London for many years before moving to the United States. Subsequent to the bomb attacks of July 7 and the attempted bombings two weeks later, I have thought about the thousands of times I traveled across London on the underground train (tube) network and double-decker buses along with millions of Londoners and commuters as part of the everyday routine of getting to and from work — always arriving safely at my destination. In the weeks following the bomb blasts I shared grief and sorrow for those who lost their lives and were badly injured, and like so many others, I felt very angry.

Now I feel defiant. I refuse to allow my life to be ruled by terror, and I firmly believe it is important to maintain a sense of balance and perspective. After all, statistics show that you are at greater risk of being in a fatal accident on the New Jersey Turnpike than you are of being killed in a terrorist attack. I travel back to London often and will continue to do so.

It appears there are many others who share this opinion. Chris Lynn, North American sales and marketing director, Visit London, based in New York, states that London's airlines, attractions, and hotels are reporting normal booking and visitor levels. “We have been extremely encouraged and impressed with North Americans in particular,” he says. “There have been no major cancellations; in fact, travel agents recorded an increased level of enquires after July 7.”

Create a Crisis Plan

The threat of terrorism is not unique to London: It is a global issue. If you are a meeting professional who does not maintain a risk management strategy for your events, you need to develop one NOW. Here are some key points to consider:

  • What is your strategy as it relates to people, property, and intelligence/data?

  • What would cause you to cancel or postpone your meeting, and at what point?

  • Who are the people responsible for carrying out the plan? Identify people you can rely on to stay calm under pressure. Ensure that each team member knows what should happen and what role they play in the execution of the plan.

  • Where should attendees go in the event of an incident on site? Is there a specific rendezvous point?

  • What is your contingency plan in the event you don't have access to your venue/airline/ground transportation?

  • Who should be notified if an attendee requires hospitalization? Many organizations require attendees to provide emergency contact/next-of-kin details. In addition, recommend that attendees photocopy their passports and other travel documents so that copies can be faxed from their home or office in the event they are lost, stolen, or damaged.

  • How will you communicate your plan, and to whom? Your plan must be reviewed and updated on a regular basis. The plan is useless if you file it away and forget about it! Schedule briefings prior to the event and on site.

  • What is the venue's emergency/contingency plan? Talk to your representative to find out what is already in place and establish how you can share information for the benefit of both organizations.

Risk management does not apply solely to terrorism-related events. It applies to any circumstance or event which may disrupt your meeting. If you have a plan in place, you can relax in the knowledge that you are prepared to deal with almost anything and minimize the impact on you and your stakeholders. For more information on risk management, visit mm.meetingsnet.com.

Sue Potton, CMM, president, Photosound Communications Inc., Princeton, N.J., has 20 years' experience in international medical conference planning. Reach her at suepotton@photosoundusa.com.