How Models of Contingency and Crisis Management Can Be Applied to Event Management

It is extremely important when planning an event to take into consideration any potential crises that may occur either in the lead up to the event or during the event itself. Having plans in place to deal with any potential problems will ease stress levels and the problem will be resolved much quicker and hopefully normal service can resume as soon as possible.

For the most serious of crises, such as medical emergencies or fire (anything that can cause harm to your attendees), it is essential to have a crises management plan. The crises management plan should include emergency response procedures (such as evacuation of the venue), one contact person for the emergency plan and clear instructions of where emergency exits are located in the event venue. Event planners should be very careful when choosing their venue to consider the safety and suitability of the venue.

If there was to be a serious crises such as a fire during an OSCE event, we have three trained fire wardens on our floor of the event building (including myself), who would be able to direct all attendees to the safe exit routes and muster point. We would not delay this response even though it would interrupt an exam because we recognise that our attendees could be at serious risk of harm. Likewise, if there was a medical emergency, we would halt the exam immediately to tend to the patient. We are very fortunate to have many health care professionals on site during an OSCE event and the OSCE co-ordinator is always a consultant who could co-ordinate the response to the medical emergency. Even though we are based on the hospital site, we would be required to dial 999 to request further assistance.

A communications plan should also be in place before any event takes place, so that is clear who to communicate with in a crisis, and how and when. This should include internal communications with staff and facility managers, and external communications with media and families who might be affected by the crisis. If we were to have a crises during an OSCE event, we would need to liaise with both the NNUH and the UEA, and we have specific contact lists for these purposes.

If the crises were to attract media attention, we would refer to both the UEA and NNUH communications departments to assist us in what information should be released to the media. Communications regarding a crises should include what has happened, what actions need to be taken, what information is available and when an update is likely to be available. If we were required to notify the families of students who were taking part in the OSCE event, the UEA would be able to assist us with this.

Not all crises are a threat to the safety of the event attendees, but they can still have a negative impact on the success of the event. Risk mitigation is a process where specific measures can be put in place to either minimize or eliminate risk which may be a threat to an event. There are four types of risk mitigation as follows:

  • Risk Acceptance – This is a strategy which is used when the cost of other risk management options outweighs the cost of the risk itself. This strategy avoids spending money on risks which do not have a high possibility of happening.
  • Risk Avoidance – This strategy avoids any exposure to risk at all (e.g. putting plans in place to cover every eventuality) and can prove to be very expensive.
  • Risk Limitation – This is the most common strategy used, and is a combination of risk acceptance and risk avoidance (e.g. taking some action to reduce the risks but not covering every eventuality).
  • Risk Transference – This strategy involves transferring risk to a third party (e.g payroll could be outsourced to a third party if there is no one in your own team who has experience with payroll).

With OSCE events, the two main risks which face us at each event are that assessors will cancel and we will not have enough to run the exam, or patients will cancel and again we will not have enough to run the exam.

To address these risks, we apply the risk limitation strategy. We over recruit assessors in the first instance, as we recognise it is likely that assessors will drop out closer to the event. On the day of the OSCE, we ask two assessors to come in as ‘reserves’, in case an assessor is unable to attend on the day. This is an example of risk limitation because we accept that there is a risk and therefore we take some action, but we do not invite enough reserve assessors to cover the whole OSCE event, which would be risk avoidance. The probability of all assessors not arriving on the day is not high enough to justify a risk avoidance strategy, and this would not be cost or time effective for the assessors who are attending in reserve.

Likewise with the patients, we always invite an extra patient to attend in the event that another patient cannot attend on the day. As we pay for travel expenses for the patients who assist with OSCE events, it would not be within our budget to employ a risk avoidance strategy (e.g. inviting double the number of patients actually required).

The two main risks to OSCE events I have described above fall into the ‘Likely’ probability category and ‘Major’ impact category, which determines them to be high risk and therefore require immediate action to minimise these risks. Whilst a fire during an OSCE event is rare-unlikely, it could have a major-extreme impact and is therefore deemed a medium risk, which requires us to have an effective and detailed crises plan in place but not necessarily any immediate action.

Risks are slightly different to issues –with risks, you already know there is a cause for concern, whereas issues can arise all of a sudden and are much less predictable. Like risks, issues can have a negative impact on an event and it is important to resolve these issues as soon as possible. An issue log is a very useful tool for recording details of issues, so that they can be investigated and resolved efficiently.

With OSCE events, there are many unpredictable things that can go wrong for a student during their exam. Examples include faulty equipment, a patient needing to use the toilet in the middle of an exam, a student being directed to the wrong station, items being missing from a station etc. Clearly these issues can have a negative impact on the student’s exam performance, so we must have a process in a place to resolve these issues and minimise the impact.

Customer Relationship Management (CRM) refers to strategies and technologies which are used to manage and analyse an organisation’s relationships and interactions with its service users/clients/customers and prospective service users/clients/customers.

CRM technologies are used to record service users/clients/customers contact details and their previous history with the organisation all in one place. These details can be collected from a multitude of sources e.g. telephone calls, emails, websites marketing campaigns etc. The organisation can then use these details for sale purposes (e.g. add them to a mailing list for sales/marketing correspondence), and also to analyse trends and behaviours. Looking at trends and behaviours can help an organisation to modify their approaches in order to better suit their service users/clients/customers’ needs. Social media is now being used widely in CRM techniques to promote organisations and attract new business.

Organisations can either use a CRM technology which is ‘in house’ and is installed on its own server, or an increasingly popular option is to use a ‘cloud’ based CRM system where data is stored on an external network which can be accessed remotely by employees providing there is an internet connection.

In terms of OSCE events, we maintain an OSCE assessor database on our own server. This database stores information on assessors such as their contact details, job position, place of work and also records each occasion that they have assessed. At the beginning of the academic year, an ‘OSCE Newsletter’ is produced, which provides an overview of the year just gone and details any changes to OSCEs for the forthcoming year. The newsletter also includes the OSCE dates for the forthcoming year, and invites assessors to book in as soon as possible for the dates on which they wish to assess. We also ask assessors to pass on the details of the OSCE training sessions to their colleagues, in the hope of attracting new assessors to add to our database. As new assessors train, we add their details to the database and frequently send out further OSCE recruitment emails throughout the year.

We also use this database to perform trend analysis, the statistics of which are included in the OSCE newsletter. We analyse in percentages the contribution of assessors from different areas/employers e.g. the UEA, the UEA affiliated NHS Trusts, GP practices etc. If we notice that a particular area is lacking in its contribution, we can focus our efforts on promoting OSCE training and assessing in that area.

Another example of CRM we use in relation to OSCE events is our patient database. Again, this is a database maintained on our own server, and stores the details of all patients who have helped/expressed an interest in helping with OSCE events. The database includes contact details and diagnoses, and also keeps a record of all OSCE events they have helped out with in the past. Similar to the OSCE newsletter, my colleague has recently developed a ‘Patient Newsletter’ which was sent out to all of the patients on our database last month. We use various methods to attract new patients to help with our OSCE events, such as promotional posters in the hospital, news items in the weekly communications circular and features in the monthly hospital magazine.

The term logistics is defined as ‘the detailed organisation and implementation of a complicated activity so that it happens in a successful and effective way’ (

The logistics of event management can be split into three stages – pre-event, on-site and post-event. OSCE events do require substantially detailed logistical planning, as follows:


  • Blueprinting of stations (deciding the content of the stations)
  • Booking of the rooms in the venue
  • Maps of the OSCE circuit and area
  • Stations sent to assessment team for mark sheets to be printed
  • Equipment and resource planning and procurement
  • Recruitment of assessors
  • Booking of role-players
  • Timetable for the day
  • Allocation of stations to assessors
  • Booking of patients (including their transport arrangements)
  • Hospitality orders
  • Set up of OSCE circuit the evening before
  • Assignment of staff members to specific tasks on OSCE day

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