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Oct 18, 2010

Risk and Crisis Management – Part 1: Preparing for the Unexpected

Conference Organizers have no greater responsibility than the safety and well-being of the delegates attending the conference. It is the responsibility of every Conference Organizer to minimize risks and prepare for the unexpected.

In this regard the best advice is to take advice. Obviously, different countries and regions offer different types of hazards, which may vary over time and certainly from season to season. The U.S. State Department, the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO), and many other national governments issue frequent “Traveler’s Advisory Notices” (available on their websites) which should be read regularly before and during a conference. A government-issued Traveler’s Advisory Notice can affect the ability of the delegates to travel to the conference, to return home after the conference, and to enjoy the conference in safety.

There are three things the Organizing Committee should do to prepare for the unexpected.

1. Insurance

IEEE maintains General Liability Insurance which provides coverage for IEEE financially sponsored and co-sponsored Conferences. IEEE Volunteers, acting within the scope of their duly authorized duties, are included as additional insureds.

Coverage for an IEEE Conference begins once the Conference Information Schedule is approved. A committee list is also requested with the Information Schedule to assist in facilitating the coverage of individual volunteers acting on behalf of the conference.

It may be advisable for you to purchase an addition, depending on the climate at your conference location, Cancelation Insurance. Event cancellation insurance provides comprehensive coverage for any of the additional expenses or lost revenue if caused by unforeseen circumstances beyond your control, such as: cancellation; postponement; curtailment or abandonment; removal to alternate premises; failure to vacate; non-appearance of main attractions.

Event cancellation insurance is in effect from the time of purchase until the conference's close.

Conferences interested in this type of coverage must complete an additional application. For more information or to apply, contact the IEEE Insurance Office via e-mail or +1 732 562 5541 or +1 732 562 5541.

2. Contracts

The contracts for all services and venues should have clauses to minimize the risk to IEEE. All of these clauses need to be “mutual”, in that both IEEE and the other party are protected. There are three clauses that IEEE Contract Management will require before the contract is signed by IEEE.

  • Force majeure - excuses a party from liability if some unforeseen event beyond the control the party prevents performing its obligations under the contract. Typically, force majeure clauses cover natural disasters or other "Acts of God", war, or the failure of third parties--such as suppliers and subcontractors--to perform their obligations to the contracting party. Force majeure clauses excuse a party only if the failure to perform could not be avoided by the exercise of due care.

    Force majeure clauses, must apply equally to all parties to the agreement. The clause should set forth some specific examples of acts that will excuse performance under the clause (i.e. wars, natural disasters, etc.) too clarify the circumstances that define force majeure.

  • General liability insurance - Coverage for an insured when negligent acts and/or omissions result in bodily injury and/or property damage on the premises of a conference or when someone is injured in the general operation of a conference.
  • Indemnification or “Hold Harmless” – Often coupled with a general liability insurance clause, indemnification protects a party from legal issues related to the vendor performing the contract. In short, it prevents one party from suing the other.

    3. Incident Management Plan

    Create an Incident Management Plan that can be distributed to all members of the Organizing Committee, professional conference organizer and their staff, as well as the property where the conference is being held. The plan should include contact information as well as a communications plan and an incident report form.

    For more advice on creating an Incident Management Plan please contact me for a template as well as information about the IEEE Crisis and Issue Communications Team (CICT). The CICT is a group of IEEE staff who are experts in managing the fallout of a crisis or incident. This team helps Conference Organizers deal with the media, insurance, and legal issues.