Hurricane. Wildfire. Earthquake. A spate of tragic incidents like these have many event professionals wondering how they can and should prepare for the worst (while hoping for the best). If disaster struck their meticulously planned event, would they have enough insurance? And would they know how to respond in a moment of real crisis?
The bottom line, according to experts: Be prepared. No one knows what (if any) unforseeable incident might occur on the day, so investing in insurance is a must. But when faced with choosing the right kind of coverage, the process can be daunting. For insight on what factors to consider, we checked in with the National Association of Insurance Commissioners.
The insurance experts' first tip? Pick coverage that makes the most sense for the scale and scope of the event you are planning. For example, a huge outdoor event that is exposed to the elements will require different — and more expensive — coverage than a 250-person indoor hotel conference. Event planners should weigh carefully what type of basic insurance would be most appropriate for their event.
Here are the three primary kinds of insurance to consider:
- General liability. This type of insurance protects you and your company against claims of bodily injury or property damage (caused by the insured's employees or representatives) and includes medical cost reimbursement for injured parties.
- Business owner's policy. This policy typically includes the coverage found in a general liability policy, but also covers business property, business interruption losses, liquor liability and more. (According to the NAIC, small businesses typically invest in this type of coverage, especially if they own the venue where the event will be held.)
- Professional liability. This coverage protects the event professional's business if a customer (or another third party) seeks reimbursement because they feel their expectations for an event were not met. Examples of such “failures" might be a keynote speaker not showing up or even the entire event getting canceled at the last minute.
When in doubt, contact a reputable event insurance broker to help you choose the right type of coverage. A broker can also connect you with specialized providers experienced at covering large-scale events such as arena concerts or sporting events. Because so many variables are at play, a broker can be invaluable in guiding event profs toward coverage that is tailored to their event.
As for the potential price tag, one entertainment industry expert estimates that the general liability cost of insuring a black-tie benefit for more than 500 people, including liquor and live entertainment, would be $400 to $600 for a $1 million policy.
Beyond Insurance, What's Your Plan?
Worst comes to worst, an event prof could face any number of emergencies during an event, from an epic snowstorm to a stage collapse to a food-poisoning outbreak. Even though you can't anticipate every potential scenario, adopting a “risk mindset" can help you think strategically when preparing for unforeseen contingencies.
Bob Mellinger, founder and president of Attainium Corp., which provides business continuity, emergency preparedness and crisis management services to meeting and event planners, recommends that event profs develop a detailed action plan for handling disruptions.
“How are you going to be organized in a crisis? Where should your team meet? Who will you communicate with? How will you contact those people? Who will make decisions?" These are the kinds of questions that Mellinger says every event planner needs to ask when drawing up an action plan.
Mellinger also suggests that event profs research the protocols that the event venue has in place in case of an emergency. For example, who should you call first — the convention center's security office or 911?
It's also important, he stresses, that your event staff is up to speed on your action plan before an event begins. “If there's an active shooter, you don't have time to grab your plan book and turn to page 42 to read about what to do next," Mellinger says. “You need to know ahead of time how to act and which people will be in charge."
For more tips on how to prepare for the worst, Meeting Professionals International (MPI) provides a "Practical Guide to Meeting Planning" with helpful checklists. MPI also offers an emergency preparedness course created with the National Center for Spectator Sports Safety and Security at the University of Southern Mississippi.
Among its recommendations, MPI urges event profs to meet with hotel and facility security staff in advance of the event to review the venue's emergency procedures — particularly exit and crowd-management strategies. Another tip: Research city emergency plans, too.
At the end of the day, all the insurance and preparation in the world can't prevent a natural or man-made disaster from disrupting your event. For event profs, however, they can provide something invaluable: Peace of mind.