Managing the Unexpected: Crisis Planning, Communications and Response

By Fran Sarmiento Executive Vice President, Venture Insurance Programs | January 12, 2014

Just as Superstorm Sandy prompted concerns about weather disasters in 2012, last year’s tragic bombing at the Boston Marathon made security and terrorist attacks a top concern for many hotel executives. Beyond the immediate security measures taken by hotels in the days and weeks following the attack, this tragedy raises broader questions around crisis planning and response.

Crises and disasters represent significant risk for a hotel’s ability to continue ordinary operations, but take many forms and are difficult to predict. They also can affect a hotel’s public image, customer base and short- and long-term financial performance. This makes it imperative for hotels and other business to respond effectively in a crisis.

Once a crisis occurs, it is too late to begin planning a response. Hotels must develop, practice and regularly update an effective plan, taking into account all emerging threats, as well as internal operations and available external resources.

Vulnerability Analysis

The first step in preparing a crisis response plan is to define all types of crises that may occur. This is often called a vulnerability analysis. This entails looking at recent trends in your region, nation and around the world, as well as emerging trends in hotels and weather and health-related issues.
Remember, crises are not limited to large-scale events like terrorist attacks and weather-related disasters such as hurricanes, earthquakes, tornadoes and flooding. They also can take the form of fires, crimes committed by a staff member, guest or intruder, and accidental deaths or injuries – especially if they are the result of real or perceived negligence on the part of a staff member.

Disease and illness can also become an emergency when they cause serious injury or death or involve an infectious disease that moves beyond a handful of guests. These can result from food-borne illness or infectious disease such as the H1N1 virus or SARS.

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