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Best Practices for Emergency Preparedness

“Be Prepared!” – Boy Scouts Motto

It was a clear day in March and the Team Members had just finished a round of the capsule answering guest questions and pointing out landmarks. It was business as usual on this run of the SkyTower and there were a wide variety of guests ranging from 3 – 73, one of whom was VERY pregnant. The capsule started its decent and then…BANG!!! With a loud noise and a jolt, the two-level observation capsule slammed to a stop 240 feet in the air. Everyone screamed except for the two Team Members on board who, after their initial surprise, gathered their wits and quickly circled the capsule to ensure everyone was OK. The Guests and Team Members were now stuck 240 feet in the air with no cell phones (this was before they were common) and even worse, no bathroom!

It took over two hours for engineers to repel from the Mechanical Room high above the capsule and unjam the governor cable to allow the capsule to finish its decent and allow the passengers to disembark. The team members on board the SkyTower had done their job to help keep the guests calm during their time stuck in the air, but Management knew that a larger response was needed, and they had an entire team of Guest Service Representatives and Park Leadership members waiting to receive the rescued guests and address their comments and concerns.

When things go wrong, and Murphy’s Law says they will…and at the most inopportune times, do you have a plan? How do you make a major failure look – in the eyes of your guests – more like a minor hiccup? Here are a few great tips that leaders can use to help minimize guest’s negative perception in the event of a failure:

Stay Calm – No matter what the situation it is important that all members of leadership present a calm, collected face to their Team and their guests (no matter how much they may be freaking out inside). Your Team looks to you for guidance and to know how to respond to a situation, and your guests look to your Team…if you are visibly shaken or upset, that will directly affect your guests perception and can make the situation seem worse than it actually is. The best way to remain calm is to…

Have a Plan – When you go through a careful Risk Analysis you will know what events are likely to happen at your facility and how frequently they may occur. At a front gate risks could include power failure, loss of network connection, or credit card processing not functioning. Developing a plan for dealing with each of these potential issues before they happen can keep your front gate functioning and prevent angry guests, provided that you…
Prepare Ahead of Time – When your ticketing system fails or loses connection, you will need to have a manual system, called E-Stock or Emergency Stock, to keep your operation functioning. These are pre-printed and audited tickets that are shrink-wrapped and secured for usage during extended downtimes. Once you have your plan in place and you have completed your preparation, you need to…

Train your Team – When things don’t go as planned, it always helps to have a team that knows what to do. That is where effective comes in to play – when we consciously choose to add an extra 30 minutes to our on the job training, include test questions, and have an Emergency Preparedness section in our SOP instead of practicing a “Baptism by Fire” approach, we are equipping our team with the knowledge of what might happen and how they will need to respond.
Being prepared for the unexpected is the best defense against having the worst possible outcome in the event of a failure. When planning, preparation, and training for your most likely failures/issues can be done in advance, it should be. When you lose power, or your computers crash at 9 am on the busiest day of the year, being able to quickly and seamlessly move to Plan B to keep your operation running smoothly, means you, your team, and most importantly, your guests, all win!
Have a wonderful week!