by Leo Jakobson | September 07, 2018
Dr. Tyra Hilliard kicked off day two of Northstar Meetings Group's Destination Southeast hosted buyer show with a keynote on meeting safety and security.
Hilliard, a PH.D in hospitality and a meetings and hospitality industry attorney who is also Certified Meeting Professional (CMP), as well as an author and professor at the College of Coastal Georgia, advised attendees not to focus solely on the last thing that happened  giving the example of the Aug. 26 shooting at an esports tournament in Jacksonville, Fla.  but on prevention and mitigation of all the big and little things that can go wrong.

She gave several pieces of advice, starting with advising meeting planners not to focus totally on what to do after an emergency or incident happens. "We tend to focus on 'what do I do,' but we should be focused on prevention and mitigation," she says. The idea is to concentrate on making things not as bad as they could be, she adds, giving the example of buying event cancellation insurance or having a nurse or EMT on site.

She cites her own research showing that a third of planners say a crisis plan is unimportant. The typical reasons are a lack of money or time, or not knowing what to do. 

There are three plans event organizers should have in place, Hilliard says. First is a crisis preparation and contingency plan. "This is for the big issues, not where to hold the reception if it rains," she says. Next, particularly for associations that rely on conference income for operating expenses, is a business continuity plan on what to do if the event is cancelled. Third is the emergency response plan.

Among the advice she gives is to worry about the right things, noting that while planners top concern tends to be terrorism, road traffic is by far the leading cause of death of U.S. travelers abroad. 

Another piece of advice to planners is to integrate safety and security into everything they do. Among many other things, this can mean educating participants and decision makers about real safety concerns versus perceptions; ensuring that the hotels and venues not only have defibrillators (AEDs) on site, but that they are well maintained and staff knows where they are; and making sure that meals' ingredients are well marked for potential allegens. 

"What are the things you are asking about when choosing a destination, selecting a venue, preparing attendees, and once you are onsite," she says. "Little things add up."