Suzanne Sangiovese is Operations Manager – Americas – at Riskline details how event planners can overcome ‘risk fatigue’ and identifies some of the possible risks to address.
Are we suffering from ‘risk fatigue’? An argument can be made that, like compassion fatigue, much of society has also become ‘numb’ to incidents. The potential intrusions on our safety – be it terrorist attacks, data breaches, natural disasters – are, unfortunately, so numerous that people may become jaded about risk and may no longer make security a priority.
However, event professionals can’t afford to do this. Risk management should be a crucial consideration in event planning. Why? Because failing to recognise potential problems can have a huge impact across both an event and the wider organisation, with knock-on effects to reputation and financial stability.
What are the risks?
Threatening situations don’t materialise out of nowhere. It’s important to track potential threats as they develop in order to anticipate problems. Meeting and event planners should ensure they’re aware of potential risks, identify what the threats are and then assess them – planning and preparation are key.
Planners would be wise to “think outside the box” when it comes to risk, and not just consider the inside or perimeter of the building itself. It’s also crucial to consider all scales of potential incidents, whether large or small. While many risk management policies may concentrate on ‘big-ticket’ items such as terrorism or mass shootings, people are more likely to be affected by smaller security concerns that go unchecked – for example, an individual is more likely to have something happen to them during the drive to and from a venue, rather than fall victim to a terrorist attack itself.
Other safety issues faced by event professionals can include opportunistic crime, border/immigration issues (such as improper visas or documentation), technology risks (that’s cyber-attacks, malware, hackers, security vulnerabilities,) as well as natural disasters (major weather systems like hurricanes, floods, snowstorms earthquakes, wildfire – more on this later) and health risks.
The key to navigating through these risks lies in accessing and assessing the most up to date and correct information. Items that can help with this are country and city risk assessment reports and maps, as well as mass-notification or alert messaging systems that keep planners and attendees up to date with what’s happening around them.
What are the next steps?
Create a contingency plan that can be implemented during a crisis situation or significant threat. Typically, such a plan would be based on ‘triggers’ – triggers would be certain factors that determine when a contingency plan should be activated. These triggers need to be agreed upon before the crisis situation occurs, rather than in the heat of the moment – perception of risk during a crisis can affect the decision-making process.
Female focused risks
Event professionals don’t just need to consider the type of risk. They need to consider the type of person that may be affected.
With over 90% female travellers stating that safety concerns affected what they did in their personal time when travelling for work (GBTA/AIG Travel survey 2018), there’s a real need to address the requirements of female business travellers.
Not all travellers are the same, and female travellers face unique safety risks. Women can be perceived as an “easier target” for criminals and are more likely than men to be victims of sexual harassment. It’s therefore essential for event professionals to have access to information on relevant local customs and laws as well as details of cultural nuances and bias in business settings.
For example, in the United Arab Emirates, where the legal code is based on Islamic law, physical contact between unrelated men and women is not socially acceptable and can be grounds for arrest. In a private setting it’s not advisable to shake hands with local men unless they initiate it.
What future risks do we face?
In short, we need to face up to the realities of climate change. We need to start thinking of extreme weather or climate events – like super typhoons, hurricanes, drought and polar vortexes – as a very real security risk. These serious weather phenomena, and the secondary impacts they have (especially on travel), are sadly expected to become more frequent in the years to come.
The repercussions of the growing reliance on technology will also become more of a threat. When most people think of ‘risk’, it’s often perceived in terms of physical danger, but we’re all reliant on technology in our professional and personal lives and need to wise up to cyber-security issues. It pays to be aware of country-specific regulations on technology availability and usage, surveillance and device searches at borders and laws on specific social media content.
Public security is a growing concern and reality. There are numerous tracking apps and surveillance technology on the market – these are valuable in increasing security and promoting safety, but at the same time can be exploited by criminals.
The type of risks event planners can face varies from one country to another, and from one delegate type to another. What’s more these risks evolve over time and staying up to date with developments can be challenging. However, in order to deliver a successful event, risk management should be part of your event planning from the very beginning.