Back to News & Info
| Written by Marie Johnson, CMP

Events > Forward — Developing an Emergency Response Plan for Events

You may not be able to predict when emergencies will strike, but you can plan for them by having an Emergency Response Plan. In fact, detailing emergency preparedness procedures is one of the most important strategic decisions a business can make. Knowing how to manage risk and navigate uncertainty is essential for event planners to keep attendees safe. Historically, emergency management has been reactive. However, there has been an evolution in the development of emergency preparedness for events as a result of increased weather catastrophes, heightened security risks, technology breaches, and newly identified health threats such as COVID.

In this episode, our host, Jeff Naue, Special Projects Marketing Lead, talks with Connie Nau, CMP, CRP, our Senior Director of Talent Engagement of Meetings & Incentives Worldwide. In Connie’s experience, most organizations have not updated their emergency preparedness plans recently to account for all the different scenarios that can and most likely will, occur on-site. “Our primary goal is to prevent incidents before they happen. But, if one does occur, the actions taken in the initial minutes of an emergency are critical. Preparedness is the process of turning awareness into action to improve your event team’s capability to respond and recover,” says Connie.

Does Your Emergency Preparedness Plan Need to be Updated?

Truth be told, it can be time-consuming and intimidating to formulate a comprehensive emergency response plan that prepares your organization for the extreme or unknown. Understanding that no two events are the same, you might wonder how you even begin to develop a plan for the safety of all event attendees? Or, maybe you do have an emergency response plan, but wonder if it is comprehensive enough to mitigate your risk and equip your team.

Tune in for our interview with Connie Nau to learn more about what’s involved in developing and updating your Emergency Preparedness Plan for events.

To stay up-to-date on M&IW’s efforts on safety initiatives and protocols for returning to in-person events, be sure to turn into our Events > Forward Podcast Series. In each episode, we interview subject matter experts on relevant and timely topics. Subscribe today on Apple Podcasts or Spotify.


We are going to be talking about emergency response planning. How did you get involved with emergency response planning and what exactly is an Emergency Preparedness Plan (EPP)? 

When I began my career at M&IW, I was one of the leaders on the Event (Program) Management team. The Emergency Preparedness Plan (EPP) was an existing document and process prior to my arrival. This plan assists our on-site event teams’ so that they know what to do in case of any emergency. Throughout my career on the operations side of the company, the EPP has always been a mandatory part of the event management process. As leaders, we were responsible for keeping the document updated.

When I moved into my current role within Talent Engagement, I was then tasked with implementing our Global Travel Risk Management provider, WorldAware, which then included continued oversight into the emergency preparedness process. WorldAware offers timely, predictive risk intelligence to help organizations make the right decisions for their people and operations. So, we combined those two areas and that is how I stayed involved. 

Through previous conversations with you, I know there are different categories to Emergency Preparedness Plans, can you tell us about those different categories?

Absolutely! It could be different for other companies, but at M&IW we break it down into three phases to keep it simple: prepare, monitor, and respond. And, then within each of those phases, there’s the corporate level oversight of an EPP; and one for the event team or staff members that manage and staff events on-site. 

Prepare: It starts with our corporate implementation of mandatory processes and tools, companywide annual training, and executive-level emergency action team. In addition, although we had an EPP in place, we knew we did not have the expertise to obtain real-time global security intelligence. So, a few years ago we developed our partnership with WorldAware, a travel risk management company. And that took our visibility of world events and risk assessments to a much different level. We also have a partnership with InHouse Physicians so we have the ability to have a professional medical team on-site with us if there is a client need. 

From the Event team side, it also involves holistic program preparation from multiple departments, to ensure they have done the research on a destination or venue, have consulted with our client and their global security team (if applicable), and have provided staff and attendees with the information they need to be safe. 

Monitor: At a high level, for the corporate visibility and compliance to the safety of our global employee travelers, it allows our management team to have much more knowledge about what is going on from a security perspective. From the event team side during the planning process, they have the ability to monitor destination security information (anything from protests, to airport strikes, or large weather events). They can determine if we need to engage either WorldAware for security risk assistance or our on-site medical partner, InHouse Physicians.

Respond: M&IW teams are trained on how to respond in a multitude of situations, whether they are on-site or in the office – potentially answering an emergency call from someone that is on-site. Also, it is important to remember that the EPP continuously evolves with the changing global environment. It is not a “complete it and forget about it” type of project. There is something that is always evolving. Prior to 2020, we didn’t use the term COVID. A few years back, we had to add detailed information about “active shooter.” It is not fun to talk about, but an important part of an EPP. 

What are the benefits of having a written policy and why is that important?

The key to emergency management is providing your teams with the tools and knowledge they need to react and manage any situation that could occur on-site. Training, resources, and consistent communication are critically important, as when a situation occurs, they instinctually will know the steps to take to stay calm and manage accordingly.

I have been at M&IW going on six years. Is it true that for every program that M&IW provides full meeting management support include on-site staff, that you provide an Emergency Preparedness Plan?

Yes, that is correct! It is a mandatory part of our process that if our team is on-site then they will have an Emergency Preparedness Plan in place. It doesn’t matter if you are in Dallas or Dubai – if something goes wrong, the team needs to have a sense of confidence and know the steps to take to ensure the safety of all the attendees.

Do you have an example of an emergency and how having an emergency response plan in place made a difference?

Yes, of course. Over the years I have been with M&IW, obviously, there are multiple circumstances that have presented. The one that sticks out in my mind, someone who had been on my team and she was in Panama at a beachfront location. She was notified by the hotel and local authorities that they were under a Tsunami warning. She was able to source another hotel locally, arrange for transportation, moved her guests to another hotel on higher ground, and all before she called the home office to alert us to the situation. The person answering the call knew immediately what to do to activate the emergency action team. A couple of highlights she shared when we debriefed was that she had it all handled because she knew what to do and felt empowered. The good news is that the Tsunami warning was canceled.

What is M&IW doing for other organizations, more specifically what are our insights and how do we help other organizations with emergency preparedness and risk management?

It’s been an interesting year, and obviously, top of mind with everyone right now. A year ago, last March, I presented this topic at the Risk 360 Conference in Chicago and met two of our clients who attended. I specifically covered this topic, pre-COVID. And, at that time there was a lot of interest. We now have consulted with three of our larger clients and helped them build out their emergency preparedness process for meetings and events.

We start by utilizing their tools, processes, and providers, and suggest updates where appropriate. In fact, in the work I did with one of the clients, they realized they had tools they didn’t even know existed until we started the deep dive. While we begin with what they have in place, we also rely on the foundational aspects of our EPP and customize it for the client. It is quite a process to convert to a client’s format, update the terminology, include any organization-specific items, etc. However, we have a great step-by-step process that accelerates the project and they’ve been super happy with the outcome, deliverables, and documentation they now have in place.

Can you give a few examples of where M&W might expand or streamline a client’s EPP?

In any big corporation, you have the typical call chain for emergencies. Every place I have worked my entire career, you knew who you were supposed to contact in case of an emergency. But, when you are managing an on-site program, it is a bit different and you need to give the on-site staff more information than a typical call tree. It has been an enlightening process helping our clients build their emergency response plans because they then, too, know what to do in those unfortunate situations (active shooter, weather situations, robberies, etc.) And, another positive outcome, they have been able to learn more about what they should do internally at their own company.

Yes, having an EPP is more than a call tree. Do you have other examples where having a plan mitigates risk?

Yes, let’s say there is a situation where media becomes present or everyone has video cameras and they are trying to get information. Our M&IW employees and the client’s staff need to know how to react with media being present. That is part of the EPP, it instructs them how to proceed and what steps to take if they get approached by the media. If someone is injured, you can’t broadcast that information or give names. There are additional steps that need to be thought through in advance. Not only the safety but also the security of the individuals and organization need to be secure.

That is a great example. So, why would organizations look to M&IW versus going it alone?

Our experience! The number of events M&IW manages annually is far more than probably any individual client group. We have emergency preparedness experience multiplied exponentially. We don’t claim to be subject matter experts on global intelligence. But our experience told us that we needed early warning detection and we developed a partnership with WorldAware. The availability of fast, accurate threat intelligence is critical to a risk management strategy. Plus, we leverage the wealth of knowledge our company has in dealing with a broad base of clientele and emergency circumstances over decades. Having that EPP foundation, partnerships, and experience benefits our clients as we provide consultation for their EPP.

Can you tell me what has changed because of the pandemic? Or what organizations need to know before they get started or to update their own EPP?

Fortunately, we already included viral outbreaks in our EPP. With that being said, we still had to evolve that section of our EPP, because of COVID. We had to add additional resources, such as the John Hopkins COVID tracker, guidelines, safety protocols, steps for in-person meetings, and inclusion of new and changing rules? This means we need to continue to update the EPP.

If someone wants to learn more about their own organization’s EPP, who do they go to? And if they discover there is not an EPP, how do they get started?

Every organization may be a bit different as it relates to their emergency response plan, but there are similarities. If you are specifically in a meeting or event department in your organization, you would speak to your direct management first to determine the steps in gaining all the needed information and approvals. You would need to enlist internal partners from departments such as Legal, Human Resources, Risk Management, Corporation Communications, Corporate Security, and Information Technology. Collaboration is key to having a solid emergency preparedness plan. If your company partners with third-party agencies travel risk management companies or air services, you would want to engage them as well.

What’s Next? 

If you are interested in partnering with M&IW to develop or update your Emergency Preparedness and Response Plan, email for more information. Or, if you are already an M&IW customer, contact your strategic account manager to schedule a 30-minute consultation.

More Resources on this Topic:

Industry Insights Webinar – Emergency Preparedness Planning

During this Industry Insights Webinar, Connie Nau, CMP, CRP, Sr. Director, Recruiting & Training, Talent Engagement, Meetings & Incentives Worldwide (M&IW) facilitated a dynamic and in-depth conversation with two of our top partners in emergency preparedness – Gene Butler, Area Director Global Safety & Security Services, Marriott International and Bruce McIndoe, President and Chief Evangelist, WorldAware.

Watch Webinar Recording

Case Study Panel Discussion – Developing an Emergency Preparedness Plan for Events

During this Case Study Panel Discussion, Connie Nau, CMP, CRP, Sr. Director, Talent Engagement shared the work M&IW conducted in partnership with the team at JM Family Enterprises in helping them develop a streamlined global process for On-site Emergency Preparedness, incorporating existing tools and providers. The panel includes representation from Talent Engagement, Sourcing, Security, and Corporate Travel and Events.

View Panel Discussion