February is a month chock full of national holidays and annual events such as American Heart Month, Valentine’s Day and my absolute favorite, the Super Bowl. Events and holidays have a wonderful way of bringing people together for a variety of reasons such as celebration, appreciation or to raise awareness. As an event producer, I love the planning process but more importantly knowing what an event can mean to the attendees.
This month, our friends in the Northeast endured a different type of event, a historic winter storm. Storm Nemo produced record snowfall, power outages for over half a million customers and halted travel in and out of the region. All events require pre-planning and more so when you’re expecting a natural disaster. In either situation, they bring people together as you plan and prepare as best you can. It’s a team effort to pull knowledge and resources to take on a 600-person conference or to recover from a storm that brings 24 inches of snow.
As event professionals, how to do we balance the needs of a community recovering from a storm while also figuring out how to move forward with an event that has been in the works for months? Last Fall, Hurricane Sandy barrelled through the Northeast devastating New York City and the surrounding region.
The New York Times article, Marathon Presses On Amid Backlash, describes the tension bewteen a city in need of resources and the decision to not postpone the world’s largest marathon. As the event grew near, the NYC Marathon was rebranded as the Race to Recover in to raise money for relief efforts while others decided to take a stand and support the community by volunteering rather than racing. Although there is no easy course of action, the people came together for one common purpose–rebuilding community.
As natural disasters loom, I am reminded of my experience evacuating Hurricane Ivan, which luckily spared my city for that hurricane season. As I sat in bumper to bumper traffic on my way north to Little Rock, Arkansas, I replayed the hours before evacuating and wondered how I could have better prepared while trying to shake the nauseating feeling of what the storm could bring. Driving back into the city, I was thankful for my neighbors and co-workers who offered valuable insight so that I could properly prepare my home before leaving town and, of course, so I wouldn’t jump into the car with one water bottle and half a bag of M&Ms. The pre-planning is crucial but it’s the post storm that showcases the support and love of a community. As we embark on the second half of this month of love and friendship, spread the love to your team or community and, of course, check your emergency preparedness plan!
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