Ready for the Worst: Emergency Trade Show Travel Planning

October 3, 2017

Sofia Troutman

Sofia Troutman is the Senior Digital Marketing and Product Innovation Manager for Skyline Exhibits. Sofia heads up Skyline’s marketing efforts in new product development and management, lead generation, exhibitor education, industry relations and market research.

Our hearts go out to natural disaster victims from all over the world, including recent ones in Houston, Florida and Mexico. Disasters are hard enough when you are home but they can take more complexity when you are traveling.

Trade Show Tips

If you were traveling to a trade show or large event, check out their website to see the status of the event. Some may choose to cancel, shorten or re-schedule. Make sure to check this before you travel or ship last-minute items if there is the possibility of an emergency in the area.

Convention Center Links

Here are links to some of the top trade show venues for your reference:

Shipping and Insurance

The possibility of unexpected emergencies is yet another reason to take pictures of everything in your crates before you ship your exhibit. Once an emergency is imminent, you may want to change shipping schedules to ensure your assets can be away from the emergency area as soon as possible. If your company’s assets were damaged during a storm and you can do so safely, it is a good idea to take pictures of the damaged equipment for insurance purposes. Contact vendors as soon as possible and let them know about the situation. You may need to fill out insurance forms if there have been damages to your vendors’ assets.

Travel Tips

If you fear a disaster will impact your travel plans, be sure to call your airline as soon as possible. You can then try to change your flights as needed before they get booked. If you have a travel agent, call them also. If your airline is unable to help, your agent may be able to make alternate arrangements. Note that most hotels will not refund any deposits unless the area they are in is under local evacuation orders. Keep an eye on the news or listen to NOAA Weather Radio before you drive somewhere. This is incredibly important if you are in or near the affected areas. If they recommend not traveling, re-schedule. It is not a bad idea to download an app onto your smartphone that allows you to access maps without cell service such as Navmii, Navigon or Google Maps offline feature.


Contact your loved ones, business associates and co-workers. This way they know you are safe, what the plan is for any scheduled business meetings and next steps. This is especially important if you’re in or near the affected areas. In fact, it is probably a good idea to ensure that your loved ones know where you plan to stay during a business trip and how they can contact you in the event that phones are not working.


Charge your phone and keep it charged, especially before you head out on the road. If you have not done so already, buy a portable charger! If phone lines are unreliable, try texting as texts will sometimes go through when phone calls will not. Note that if it is an emergency you may need to call 911 as some emergency agencies are not equipped to receive texts. For more emergency communication tips, check out the FEMA site. Other apps such as Facebook, WhatsApp and Zello allow people to communicate when phone lines are down. Also, note that you can use your phone to call 911 even when you don’t have coverage, so it is not a bad idea to keep an old cell phone in your emergency kit.

Preparation Tips

Bring chargers with you and keep all your electronics charged. If you are trying to get back home, don’t check your bag. If you did not bring a carry-on, consider arranging to ship your bag (your hotel may be able to help) and using an inexpensive duffle as a carry-on. Getting on alternative flights or renting a car would be much simpler without a checked bag. If you do check your bag, make sure to keep your medications, keys and critical personal items in your carry-on.

Keep emergency supplies. It’s a good idea to keep a small first aid kit, cell phone battery booster and charging cords, Ziploc bags and flashlight with your luggage and if you are in an emergency area, carry it with you. Also, have emergency toiletries, glasses, comfortable shoes and a change of clothes on you, just in case you get stranded overnight. Lastly, keep snacks in your carry-on just in case. Good portable options include granola bars, dried fruit, nuts and a refillable water bottle.

Safety Tips

If you are driving and spot a tornado, it’s first recommended to find a sturdy, nearby building or a storm shelter to go into. If you are caught in the storm and there are no nearby buildings, you can take cover in a stationary vehicle. Put the seatbelt on and cover your head with your arms and a blanket, coat or other cushion if possible. Alternatively, it is recommended to lie in an area noticeably lower than the level of the roadway and cover your head with your arms and a blanket, coat or other cushion. Do not drive into a flooded area, especially during a storm, as your car may be swept away.

Some of these tips came from How To Handle Disasters When you are on a Business Trip from This is a great resource that not only outlines what to pack but also some great organizations taking donations for those affected by recent storms. Also referenced was Hurricane Irma: Prepare your Smartphone for catastrophic conditions article published in USA Today.

Let us know what you have done to prepare for or react to a trade show or business event emergency.​​​​​​​ ​​​​​​

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Partner Voices

As event professionals and destinations adjust, adapt and evolve in these uncharted waters, it is imperative that substantial resources be put in place for all of the people responsible for planning and executing trade shows, expositions and conventions. An example is Mohegan Sun, which built an industry-leading, COVID-19 Resource Center with a combination of pictures from recently held successful events (the property reopened on May 1, 2020) along with several widely available and informative documents, such as an evolving operational framework: