3 Tips for Offsite Disaster Planning

Sep 20, 2017 | Communication, Procedures

3 Tips for Offsite Disaster Planning When Hurricane Irma recently stranded 620 hotel guests in St. Thomas, Marriott International had a big problem on their hands. How could they safely evacuate their guests in the middle of one hurricane with another one (Hurricane Jose) potentially riding on Irma’s coattails?

The solution: Quick thinking and good planning. While the evacuation was stressful for guests and employees alike, Marriott was able to quickly source a 30,000-ton ship and safely ferry all 620 people to Puerto Rico. The giant hotel chain even provided the guests with free accommodations, as well as money for incidentals, toiletries, and food once they reached their (unintended) destination.

The excellent Forbes story and interview with Tim Sheldon, Marriott International’s President of the Caribbean and Latin America, got me thinking: As administrative professionals, we do our best to prepare for the unexpected in our homes and offices – but how much do we think about disaster preparedness while we’re traveling, attending conferences, or at other offsite events?

If you routinely plan events or travel for work, it’s important to prepare for the unexpected. Here are three tips that can help you and your team develop a plan to deal with offsite emergencies.

1. Learn What Plans and Procedures are in Place

Most venues that cater to meetings, conferences, and workshops understand the need for disaster planning just as much as you do, so there’s no need to reinvent the wheel.

Have a conversation with the site’s staff and find out what plans they already have in place. Are there established evacuation routes in case of fire, flood, or terrorism? If an unexpected storm should hit, is the venue equipped to handle stranded guests? Are there plans in place to deal with medical emergencies?

Once you understand the venue’s plans and procedures, you can fill in the gaps with your own.

2. Communicate With Your Team and/or Attendees

A disaster plan is no good to anyone if they don’t know it exists, so make sure you’re communicating with your executive, team, and other event attendees. Once the roof caves in or the fire alarms start blaring, it’s too late to start explaining the plan.

Consider including an “in case of emergency” sheet in your event handouts. This should cover:

  • What to do in case of different scenarios (fire, flood, extreme weather, terrorist attack, etc.).
  • Venue evacuation routes and emergency exit locations.
  • Where to meet after an evacuation .
  • Addresses and phone numbers for the nearest hospital, pharmacy, police station, or consulate.
  • Who to report to after a disaster. (This is helpful when you’re trying to account for everyone immediately after an emergency.)

Although it would be impossible to cover every single scenario, it’s important that everyone is on the same page and can recover from the disaster quickly if something happens.

3. Have an Up-to-Date Contact List

Your contact list is one of the most vital parts of your emergency communications plan, and it needs to be up to date. During or immediately after a disaster is no time to realize your colleague forgot to mention he got a new phone number, or that one of your conference attendees changed her email address after registering.

Before leaving for your offsite event, print each person’s contact details on a slip of paper and include it with their handouts, along with a polite note to update any incorrect information immediately. This prevents those who have no changes from having to give you their information again, while allowing those who do have changes to quickly and easily communicate the fact.

Update your contact list as soon as possible at the beginning of every event, and make sure you have a physical copy, as well as a digital copy stored to the cloud.

Disasters are relatively uncommon, so the “it will never happen to me” mindset tends to prevail. Chances are an emergency won’t happen to you. But having a plan in place takes the “what if” out of the equation, and, as we saw with Marriott and Hurricane Irma, can actually save lives.

Does your company have plans in place to manage and mitigate offsite disasters? Email us at AdminSuccess@AllThingsAdmin.com and help inspire your fellow admins to develop their own plans!

© 2017 Julie Perrine International, LLC


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Julie Perrine, CAP-OM, is the founder and CEO of All Things Admin, providing training, mentoring and resources for administrative professionals worldwide. Julie applies her administrative expertise and passion for lifelong learning to serving as an enthusiastic mentor, speaker and author who educates admins around the world on how to be more effective every day. Learn more about Julie’s books — The Innovative Admin: Unleash the Power of Innovation in Your Administrative Career and The Organized Admin: Leverage Your Unique Organizing Style to Create Systems, Reduce Overwhelm, and Increase Productivity. And request your free copy of our special report “From Reactive to Proactive: Creating Your Strategic Administrative Career Plan” at www.AllThingsAdmin.com.

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