Just days after a stage at the Indiana State Fair collapsed from wind, a strong storm toppled a stage at the Pukkelpop music festival in Belgium. These two tragedies claimed 10 lives and injured 180 people. As we head into the fall event season, these recent accidents are a reminder of the importance of having a Plan B. And a Plan C.
Here at Event 360, safety is always our number one priority and operational decision point. When we are on event, every staff member, from the production manager through to the front line, is empowered to make decisions to protect the safety of our participants. That’s why we develop safety, emergency, and contingency plans and put communication checklists in place to ensure everyone on event is trained to respond to weather, and other scenarios that might interrupt standard event operations.
First and foremost, an emergency plan must be in place for extreme weather, and other sudden and unexpected occurrences. To help you think through the make-up of your emergency plan, here are some practical tips to ensure that your next event puts safety first:
- Any infrastructure that can move in substantial wind should be ballasted.To determine the amount of ballast needed, determine the wind resistance of the equipment. This should always be done by an experienced professional.
- Tents and items with canopies don’t just tip over, they can rise up off the ground and turn into a sail. A 10’ x 10’ tent or pop up can be just as dangerous as a larger tent because it is lighter. This hardware can be lethal when traveling at 20 or 30 miles an hour. Over ballast!
- Inflatables can not only take off in wind, but they tend to float further and pick up speed.
- When wind is imminent, all walls should be cut loose at sides, either at the top or bottom.
- Large banners should have wind slits and a “quick cut” feature so that they can be cut loose when threatened.
- Any truss structure with a top on it (and/or sides) should have guy-wires with heavy ballast, and specific diagonal bracing – depending on the size. Use hydraulic mechanisms that can bring the top down relatively quickly.
Any threat of weather should be taken seriously, as wind is unpredictable and tragedies can occur in a matter of minutes. It only takes one big gust to take down a structure. Don’t be frugal when it comes to spending money on ballast for infrastructure – you can never have too much ballast. This is a safety and liability issue that cannot be ignored, and you have to be ahead of the game.
The old saying goes that you can’t cheat death and taxes. Those of us in the event world would add one more item to that list: weather. While we have sophisticated tools and technologies at our disposal these days, common sense remains the best tool.
We do our best to make “safety first” everyone’s mantra, but we also err on the side of perception and comfort. We put ourselves our participants’ shoes and take action before they feel uncomfortable or even perceive that there could be a safety problem. Sometimes, this means doing things like moving people to a relocation site even if it never rains. We’d rather have participants frustrated with us because we were too serious about safety than devastated because we weren’t.
One practical way you can put “safety first” is by carrying out a risk assesment early on in your event planning to ensure you have proper plans in place for public safety. A risk assessment is simply a careful examination of what could cause harm to your participants, so that you can understand whether you have taken enough precautions, or still need do more to prevent harm. Potential hazards include:
- Physical hazards, such as vehicles, guy ropes, slippery surfaces, electrical and fire
- Hazardous substances, such as fumes, gasses
- Environmental, such as noise, poor lighting, weather, unsupervised water areas
- Psychological, such as long hours, inadequate breaks, stress
- Ergonomic, such as poor seating/standing routines, lifting
Have a question about safety? Please contact us if you would like to speak to one of our event production specialists about conducting a safety audit for your event fundraising program,
This advice and information is presented for general educational purposes and to increase overall safety awareness. It is not intended to be legal, medical or other expert advice or services, and should not be used in place of consultation with appropriate professionals. The information provided is intended to be accurate and helpful, but it should not be considered exhaustive.