• 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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