From HS(S)(Q)(E) to Business Continuity Management

3 Monkeys’ Rudi Buchner explores the importance of planning for the unexpected…

Thankfully, health and safety is now an integral part of the event professional’s mindset. Many companies in the industry have implemented an operational health and safety management system, some are managing the E (environment), and a few have processes in place to manage Q (quality) and S (security). 

What I do not see at all is the implementation of Business Continuity Management, which is the next logical step. How do we recover from an incident during an event production?

In our HS documentation, we have plans on how to react to major incidents – for example, the evacuation of an event site – and we communicate these plans via signage or in some cases via an HSE moment at the beginning of the show. However, we do not have a plan on how to deal with the impact this evacuation has for our event client or how to minimise the impact for our client’s guests. This line of thought does not apply only to major incidents; it also applies to small- or medium-scale disruptions and distractions. 

I remember the moment when the VVIP needed for the last session of a show decided to get up and leave the room. No one knew what was going on. No one knew how to react. The typical response of ‘let’s move a later session forward’ obviously did not work because it was the last session and the big moment of the show. So, what now? We stumbled and stammered; there were a few embarrassing moments for us, for the unprepared host and our client. The situation was an unmanaged disruption in the context of Business Continuity. 

Things will go wrong during events – we all know that – but do we have a plan? Often, we do, based on experience with similar situations in our past, but what if there is no historical reference that we can follow? What if the crew on site does not have the experience? 

Business Continuity Management gives us an operational process which allows us to plan and prepare for these situations, just like OHSMS does in Health and Safety.

The process is not all that different from health and safety management: analyse what could go wrong, come up with a plan of how to react to it, train and rehearse the execution of the plan, maintain, and develop the Business Continuity Management system as you go along and run an audit and review cycle now and then. Equally important is to make sure your team buys into it, enjoys the process, and becomes part of an ongoing improvement cycle.

The reaction plan is your incident or emergency response, your crisis management. For major incidents, this is linked very closely to HS. For small- and medium-size disruptions and distractions where health in safety is not a concern, it becomes its own set of guidelines.

Once you know how to respond, you also know what it takes to recover and resume your operation – or, in other words, you have achieved Business Continuity. In short: anticipate, assess, prevent… If it happens, be prepared, respond, and recover. 

Do I have a response plan to VVIP gone missing? I do now! Have an emergency script for the host. Rehearse the emergency script with the host. Prepare an emergency programme point and if this is not possible, have screen graphics and music ready to fill the void with an unplanned break. Rehearse this emergency programme with the crew including how to come back to the actual programme. Most importantly, make the client aware that this is what will happen if it happens.

Photo: 3 Monkeys