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Communication and command crucial to risk management: BCD Meetings & Events

Events agency releases white paper revealing its experience in Brussels terror attack

Pictured: BCD Meetings & Events had more than 300 delegates passing through Brussels at the time of the airport bombs in March 2016

Good communication and a clear chain of command are crucial risk management strategies says BCD Meetings & Events, as it recounts its direct involvement with the Brussels terror attacks.

The global events agency says it had to act on its risk management strategies when 308 attendees were caught up in the Brussels airport bombings on 22 March 2016, with some injured.

It has shared its experiences in a white paper Shift Happens: Crisis Management in the 21st Century, to help clients and others in the industry prepare for emergency scenarios. The release of the paper comes as drp warns that the events industry still has work to do on crisis management.

The paper says: "As soon as news of the Brussels attack was reported, the BCD Global Crisis Management Team was informed of situation via a memo alert flash. At this point, our crisis management plan went into action.

"Within three hours of first being informed of the event, analysis of the situation was escalated to the appropriate management team and action steps were taken. First focus was on communicating with team leaders on the ground to ensure participants were accounted for. Next, a priority re-booking list was created for attendees with same-day departure dates and those wounded. Lists were double checked and every participant contacted directly—using contact information collected before the program began.

"Our flexible and dedicated staff ensured that all participants were booked on flights as necessary with no delays or extra costs. The sense of urgency was understood by everyone immediately. A very stressful and serious situation was handled professionally and quickly because everyone knew where to step in and what role they played in the crisis management plan."

The paper goes on to say teams must begin conversations around security ahead of any event, such as looking at clients' and suppliers' internal protocols in order to merge risk management procedures. It also suggests using event apps or other options to communicate crisis strategies, adding: "But, also consider what happens if you find yourself unable to rely on technology because of a crisis. How will you communicate with your program participants if this happens?"

When it comes to establishing a chain of command, BCD Meetings & Events says it must be made clear who is responsible for necessary decisions.

Information collection and documentation is also vital, the agency says, to ensure the most up-to-date communication channels are in place. That includes attendees' contact and emergency contact information; international travel document information such as passports; travel insurance details and client's corporate liability and insurance documents.

The report authors said: "Shift happens–it’s unavoidable. As individuals and companies who are passionate about helping to plan and create meaningful experiences and events, we certainly want to avoid the possibility that anything out of our control may impact our investment and attendee experience. Expectations have shifted and so have the consequences of being unprepared. So we must plan ahead to respond effectively to crisis."

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