Contingency Planning

We were reminded of the importance of contingency planning again last week when we supported the Nuffield Trust’s annual two day Health Policy Summit during one of the UK’s coldest weather snaps in our memory. We’re used to planning for major incidents like terrorist attacks, but sometimes it’s the smaller incidents that require just as much consideration. Here’s a few things we did last week;

Scenario Planning

Weeks before the Summit, we had discussed, and more importantly, mapped out, what we would do in various scenarios (from major incident to food poisoning and bad weather). Pre planning is essential. As well as the usual major incident planning and risk assessment and management of the event, we had a contingency plan for every session in the programme should any of the speakers not be able to make it to the venue.

Roles & Responsibilities

Make sure everyone knows what their role will be in the case of an incident. The Trust’s Director of Communications was lined up to be the front facing voice of the Trust should the need arise. My colleagues and I were primed to be active at the operational level (communicating with attendees, suppliers, venue, etc).

Messaging & communication channels

Know which channels you’re going to use and most importantly, have the data readily to hand to email segmented groups should the need arise. We had established that we would use email as the primary channel of communication, along with Twitter. We sent multiple communications with updates on the weather situation, national and local travel advice and the local event situation.


Two days before the event we booked coaches to bring people from the local train station to the venue (and one to take people back at the end of the event). Once we knew how many attendees had checked in on the first day we reconvened, checking the weather forecast again and decided to truncate the second day of the programme to allow attendees to get away at lunchtime rather than mid-afternoon, before the next wave of bad weather set in! This was no mean feat as it meant liaising with multiple speakers, including the Chief Executive of the NHS, Simon Steven’s office.

On arrival, attendees expressed gratitude at the level and detail of comms sent to them and the fact that we advised not travelling if it was unsafe to do so, in line with national advice. The event was live streamed for those not able to make it (only 14% in the end).

If you want to talk through your crisis or contingency planning, call Clare on 07881 923136 or drop us an email at [email protected]

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