For months now, the EHS Today team has been planning the Safety Leadership conference. We chose a location, a hotel, topics, speakers, keynotes… We planned for staff attendance and travel, meals for the Safety Leadership Conference attendees, signage, hotel rooms, a location for the America’s Safest Companies and SLC Night Out celebration…
The one thing we didn’t plan for – couldn’t plan for – was Hurricane Irma and the impact and concern it would cause. Our hearts go out to all of those impacted by Hurricane Irma, here in the United States and in all of the impacted locations.
The EHS Today team has been tracking Hurricane Irma for the past several days and the anticipated impact this weather event could have on Atlanta, the location of the Safety Leadership Conference. Initially, the thought was that Irma would have little or no impact on the Atlanta area. Weather forecasts now are predicting that Irma will remain a tropical storm as it travels north through the Atlanta area, creating conditions that could lead to heavy rain, high winds and possibly, tornadoes. In addition, many residents of Florida and eastern Georgia, under mandatory evacuation orders, are evacuating to the Atlanta area, where every hotel room is sold out.
After much discussion with our internal team and our partners and sponsors, we determined the safest course of action was to reschedule the Safety Leadership Conference. As a magazine that promotes occupational safety and health and risk management, we could not advocate that SLC attendees and speakers, America’s Safest Companies winners, sponsors and our staff leave areas of the country that are safe to fly toward an area being impacted by a hurricane.
Safety is our greatest concern, and we cannot guarantee that Hurricane/Tropical Storm Irma won’t create safety or travel concerns for SLC attendees, speakers and sponsors. We also realized that exhausted Florida and Georgia residents, terrified for their friends, neighbors and family who stayed behind and their homes and businesses that are in the path of devastation created by a Category 4 hurricane, need a safe place to wait out the storm and we were holding 200 hotel rooms.
Sometimes, the hardest choice is the only choice. We postponed the Safety Leadership Conference. The management at the Hilton Atlanta was great, working with us to cancel the hotel rooms for attendees so they could be made available for people evacuating Irma. Our conference partners and sponsors supported our decision to postpone 100 percent, realizing that the most important thing was for everyone to be safe. Our attendees and speakers, many of whom already had expressed concerns, were understanding and compassionate about our decision and the plight of those in the path of Irma.
We already have started on plans to reschedule the conference, and we are discussing what we – the EHS Today team and the Safety Leadership Conference – can do to contribute to hurricane recovery efforts in Texas and Florida. We will update you as soon as we have details.
While I personally am sad that the conference and our America’s Safest Companies awards have been postponed, I know it was the right decision and my thoughts and prayers go out to the people in Texas, Florida and all areas impacted by recent weather events.