Ready For The Weather

by Jill Kopecky

For anyone who has been at an outdoor music festival you know that sometimes
the weather can be perfect, but it can also turn ugly. Preparing in advance for any
weather contingency when planning an outdoor event is essential to protecting your
event, guests and crew.
1. Start planning early.
You need to start planning for severe-weather safety weeks or even months in advance.
Go over different scenarios for different types of weather events, deciding when to send
guests home as opposed to sending them to predetermined locations.
2. Research, research, research.
Even with careful planning for winds and rain, make sure you know about other potential
problems that are specific to the venue, area, or even to that time of year. Do you have
to worry about tornadoes, hurricanes or flash floods? Depending on where your event
is and the time of year, you need to be ready for anything.
3. Watch weather forecasts.
Watching the local news channel isn’t enough for an outdoor event; the planning needs
to be more specific. Rely on resources like the local National Weather Service forecast
office, the Storm Prediction Center and the National Hurricane Center or hire a private
company that can provide up-to-date weather information. Private forecasts pinpoint
your exact location and take into consideration the surrounding topography, in addition
to hour-by-hour updates and a meteorologist that can answer questions 24 hours a day.
4. Decide on decision makers.
While in the early stages of the planning process, designate key people to make
decisions in the event of a weather emergency. The group should include law
enforcement, security, medical staff, the public relations team, the event announcer and
front-office personnel. The announcer and front-officer staff can communicate updates
to guests. Also choose a sole decision maker if the weather comes in quickly and there
isn’t time for a discussion or a vote.
5. Create a communication plan.
Have a written plan that defines potential weather-related trigger points like high winds
and what the response will be. Make certain that all event employees have read and
understood the plan and their individual responsibilities. Make certain you know what to
do with regards to power, light, mobile service, radios, etc.
6. Keep weather in mind when picking a venue.
When picking a site, keep an eye toward operations during a worst-case scenario. Will
it be easy to evacuate your guests quickly and safely? How long will it take for
emergency services to arrive? Are there large trees and utility lines that could be a
problem? What permanent structures are there for shelter? Look at the layout and
identify egress points, placing seating and structures away from exit routes and areas
affected by high winds.
7. Provide adequate cover and cooling.
Outdoor events need to make certain that guests have areas where they can get out of
the sun and cool down. Both guests and staff need to make sure that they have plenty
of cover, sunscreen and water because dehydration can occur easily in the right
conditions.
8. Make sure tents and structures are secure.
With extreme weather, tents and other temporary structures can be a significant threat.
Make certain the tents are installed properly and securing hard-paneled walls at the
bottom, top and sides of the tents will help to minimize the shaking caused by winds.

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