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Climate Change Revises the Event-Risk Forecast

As climate change makes weather more unpredictable and severe, planners need to align their safety and contingency protocols with the new reality.

Event safety and security topics range from global pandemics to active shooters to medical incidents, crisis communication, and cybersecurity. But what about climate change?

As scientists document longer heat waves, changes in precipitation patterns, more severe hurricane seasons, an increase in wildfires, sea-level rise, and other impacts linked to climate change, planners need to consider increasingly unpredictable weather events in their planning process.

Here are a few ideas to help you plan around a changing planet.

Weather News
Let your hotel, venue, and suppliers know about your climate concerns. It’s the local folks who will be most familiar with recent weather patterns, so get their input and ask about their preparations. News stations at your meeting destination keep data on record-breaking weather going back years, so don’t overlook that resource.

Understanding how average temperatures, rainfall, or other phenomena have changed in particular months over the last decade can help you plan accordingly. The National Weather Service is also helpful and provides weather information to most local TV news stations.

Listen to Locals
A lot of climate information is anecdotal and comes from the experiences from those who live or work in your conference city. In Phoenix, for example, August brings what the locals call “monsoons.” These heavy rainfalls can be so extreme that parking lots, backyards, and patios become small ponds in minutes, and scientists see these events becoming more frequent and intense with climate change. They might be routine for residents but can worry out-of-town attendees—and could hamper group transportation.

Prepare and Adapt
Research climate change in your host city and make plans to respond. In Charleston, S.C., for example, high tides now bring downtown flooding with increasing frequency, causing roads to become impassable and creating long delays. (On average, Charleston saw 89 tidal floods in 2019 and 69 in 2020, compared to 10 to 25 tidal floods per year in the 1990s, according to one report.) So, be ready: review tide charts and prepare maps and/or communications featuring alternate routes and schedules for times when transportation is scheduled.

Keep One Step Ahead
As a planner, you know unexpected weather events will happen, despite all the steps you may take to avoid them. When it does, make sure you know how your venue, suppliers, and other partners will respond and what action you need to take. What will attendees need from you if the power goes out, or if their flights are delayed or canceled? What is your plan if the snowstorm or hurricane that appeared to be a week away arrives unpredictably during your meeting?

Be the Solution
As Covid-19 has highlighted, the meetings industry has a gargantuan impact on the globe, the economy, the workforce, and the environment. During the first months of lockdown, smog in cities across the world vanished and oceans saw the return of some animals and plants. This all speaks to the fact that meeting planners’ choices can help to slow down climate change. Start making your events more sustainable today. If suppliers see that it’s important to you, then it will become important to them, and the industry will follow.

Alan Kleinfeld has more years in meeting management than he wants to admit, combined with nearly two decades of law enforcement experience. He’s a sought-after consultant, speaker, and author. He’s also the director of the Lowcountry Graduate Center in Charleston, S.C. Contact him at [email protected].

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