How Weather Can Impact Your Live Event – and How to Prepare for It
When we think of weather disruptions and live events, we tend to think of annoyances. However, weather changes can create dangerous situations at live events. This is not limited to obvious threats, like tornados and heatwaves. Even common weather disruptions can lead to hazardous conditions when a large group of people is involved. For example, sudden, heavy hail may trigger people to rush for shelter, which increases the risk of injuries caused by a stampede.
While weather may be a more significant concern for outdoor events, inclement weather can impact inside events, as well. However, by being aware of potential weather risks, you can plan for these emergency conditions and help ensure the safety of your guests.
Potential Weather Complications
Of all the elements that can cause sickness, people rarely think of mud. It’s just wet dirt, right? Yet, mud can carry a variety of pathogens with symptoms that range from severe gastrointestinal distress to life-threatening complications. In 2015, a contestant of a mud run lost sight in one eye after contracting a flesh-eating bacterium during the race. Mud runs have also been known to cause breakouts of norovirus, campylobacter, and leptospirosis, diseases that can cause high fever and severe vomiting and diarrhea.
While your outdoor event may not intentionally encourage your guests to splash around in the mud, a downpour can turn a previously green field into a marsh. Anyone spending time in the muck, such as sitting in a muddy field during a concert or sleeping in a muddy campground, could be exposed to disease, especially if they have any cuts or other wounds.
Mud can also cause infrastructure issues. When areas become muddy, your guests are much more likely to slip and fall. This is true of muddy fields and also cement and tile floors inside venues that become muddy due to foot traffic. Mud can also create major traffic and parking complications, especially if some or all of your parking takes place in a field. All it takes is a downpour or two to convert a previously ideal parking situation into a swamp where you need tow trucks to extricate the cars.
Rain can affect your event even if it is miles away. Speakers and entertainers often fly in the morning of an event, either due to their schedule or preference. Should their flight become delayed by weather in their departure city, you may wind up scrambling for a last-minute replacement.
Bad weather can also cause delays for your attendees. Rain leads to traffic, and traffic leads to lengthy trips to your venue. With so many people arriving at the same time, possibly late, there is going to be a line to enter your venue. After these people have parked their cars or walked from public transportation, their overall mood is likely to be sour. Their attitude is not likely to improve when they have to wait to enter the event, especially if the lines are outside in the rain. Having a downpour negatively affect the mood of your attendees (and staff) is certainly not how you would like your event to begin.
Also, for outdoor events, rain means that the umbrellas come out, which is rarely good in a crowded event space. Not only do umbrellas block people’s view, but they also tend to cause people around the umbrella to get even wetter. Both of these factors can cause people who are already grumpy to become downright hostile.
Excessive sun puts your attendees and staff at risk of sunburn, sun poisoning (a severe, blistering sunburn), and heatstroke. Make sure you have made adequate preparations by providing cool, shaded areas for people to escape the sun, sunscreen to prevent burns, and plenty of water.
This last point cannot be overemphasized. If you are hosting an outdoor event, you need to provide ample drinking water. For some events, this may require significant planning to ensure that the infrastructure exists to supply this water.
Creating this infrastructure will help prevent handing out piles of bottled water. Instead, consider supplying each attendee with a reusable water bottle, and have several refilling stations spread throughout the event. This works for indoor events, as well.
In 2011, winds of 60 to 70 mph rose unexpectedly around the Indiana State Fair. Festivalgoers were waiting near the stage when the wind caused rigging for the lighting system over the stage to tilt forward and fall into the crowd. Five people were killed, and dozens were injured. In 2017, winds caused the stage at an EDM festival in Brazil to collapse. DJ Kaleb Freitas, who was performing at the time, was killed, and several attendees were injured.
Avoiding similar tragedies needs to be top of mind for constructing a temporary outdoor stage. When designing and setting up the stage, always consider the prevailing direction of the wind and average gusts for the time of year. The stage will have a “wind rating,” so be sure to monitor the weather, especially if gusts appear to be nearing the stage’s wind evaluation. Do not hesitate to clear crowds and performers at the first signs of dangerous conditions.
However, even moderate winds can negatively impact an event. Heavy wind can make it difficult to hear the entertainment because the wind can drown out the sound, or it can cause speakers to work intermittently.
Finally, in dry, windy conditions, dust can become an issue. Not only is dust irritating, but extreme conditions can also damage people’s eyes.
Preparing for Bad Weather
Perform a Risk Assessment
Nobody likes thinking about negative possibilities. However, the best way to be prepared for weather complications is to think through all of the options thoroughly.
A weather risk assessment is an evaluation of the most likely emergencies to arise using factors like attendee demographics, on-site activities, location, and serves more as a guide. It will help you understand the potential risks so you can plan ahead of time how to mitigate them.
Create a Weather Response Plan
Once you understand the potential risks, you can begin to plan appropriate responses. This includes identifying areas for people to shelter in inclement weather, where to move attendees and performers in the event of heavy winds, and how to evacuate the venue in case of severe weather.
That last note is extremely important. Most venues will have an established evacuation plan. However, if you are creating a temporary location, you will need to design evacuation plans for attendees and entertainers. It is also essential to establish a clear chain of command for your staff. In an emergency, tension will be high, and your staff needs to know who to turn to when decisions need to be made.
Be Sure Your Staff Knows the Plan
In the days leading up to your event, gather your staff, and run through a range of emergency weather scenarios. Make sure they understand who to turn to in an emergency, how to help attendees, and where to go to keep everyone safe. Run them through the evacuation plan and make sure they are comfortable overseeing it on their own, in case they are unable to reach their emergency contact.
The responses from your staff will give you a pretty good idea of their emergency preparedness level and if more drills are necessary. Be sure that your event staff is comfortable running emergency weather drills; the result could be lifesaving.