UK Web Focus (Brian Kelly)

Innovation and best practices for the Web

Contingency Plans for Disasters

Posted by Brian Kelly on 25 Jul 2007

IWMW 2007 slideIn the conclusions of the IWMW 2007 event I described how UKOLN will be seeking to enhance its processes for managing our events in order to enable us to response to disasters.

The first time I started to consider how technologies could be used to address problems at events was at IWMW 2004 when a bus which was meant to take delegates from their accommodation went missing before everyone had been transported. One of the plenary speakers was included in those left some distance from the venue, but fortunately as he had the mobile phone number of our event organiser, we were able to be informed of the situation and change the running order for the event.

This incident led us to add a field on the workshop booking form to allow participants at the event the following year to include details of their mobile phone number. And as that second day of the event (which was held at the University of Manchester) coincided with the London bombings on 7/7 this brought home to us the need to explore contingency plans in case of disasters, and not just inconveniences.

Location of participants at IWMW 2007Various Web 2.0 technologies (such as mashups), the wide variety of communication tools and the increasing sophistication of various mobile devices is now making it more feasible to be able to inform participants at events of possible problems and to react more quickly. This was very much in my mind when I started to prepare my conclusions for the IWMW 2007 event.

My current thinking is that for future events we should seek to:

  • Invite participants to provide mobile phone numbers to enable us to contact them in case of last minute emergencies.
  • Have mechanisms in place for bulk sending of text messages (for example using JANET’s new JANET txt service).
  • Provide location maps of where delegates will be travelling from in order for us to make plans in case or disasters such as the current flooding over large areas of the south of England (the location of participants at IWMW 2007 is illustrated).
  • Integrate content from services such as the BBC weather and travel pages and appropriate train services into our event pages (especially for events which may attract overseas participants who may not be aware of these services).

As someone who attended the JISC Digitisation conference in Cardiff on 19-20th July 2007 I am very much aware of the problems and uncertainties that can happen (in my case, I was fortunate in being able to return home after the conference had finished – but I did meet speak to several participants at Cardiff and Bristol Temple Meads stations who didn’t know where they’d be spending the night).

Has anyone other suggestions on how technological innovations may be used to in case of such problems?

4 Responses to “Contingency Plans for Disasters”

  1. James Clay said

    One key thing I would have is free wireless internet access for delegates and an “internet cafe” facility for those delegates who don’t have access to a wireless laptop. Just a couple of laptops that delegates could use should be sufficient.

  2. How about, at larger conferences, text reminders sent to mobiles 10 minutes before breakout/focus group meetings are about to start, for which you’ve registered, with details of the room you’re supposed to go to.

  3. […] by Brian Kelly (UK Web Focus) on August 6th, 2007 I previously posted about Contingency plans for disasters when organising an event. On a less drastic scale, what approaches can event organisers take when a […]

  4. Juliette said

    I organised a conference that started the evening of 9/11 with quite a number of people flying from the US for it. To be honest, the only thing I would really have done differently in preparation is to have organise some sort of contigency internet access for folk (it was only a two day conference and we had decided not to provide internet access). The other stuff would all have been not worth planning for the possibility of in advance (like extending folk’s accommodation arrangements or organising a big television screen so folk could see the news for instance). If something like that happens, people are fairly foregiving about not everything being perfect – it’s only a conference after all. The hardest thing was actually deciding whether to go ahead with the conference or not but that’s something you have to decide on the spot.

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