You’ve been hired to plan the perfect outdoor summer event. You’ve got all your ducks in a row. The linens, the tents, the food — it’s all taken care of.

But do you have a plan for that summer thunderstorm that might blow through? It turns out, planning the perfect event means planning for safety, too.

The consequences of not planning can be dire. For example, in just one 24-hour period earlier this year (August 2-3 2015), severe weather put hundreds of lives at risk. According to The Weather Channel, “Winds from [a strong] thunderstorm toppled a tent at the Wood Dale, Illinois, Prairie Fest, killing one and injuring 16; an EF1 tornado tracked through Lake County, Illinois, Sunday night, ending just blocks from Six Flags Great America amusement park; and an estimated 60-mph thunderstorm winds collapsed a circus tent in Lancaster, New Hampshire, Monday afternoon, killing two and injuring at least 22 others.”

The reality is, if you don’t have a plan in place for a severe weather threat, the results could be deadly.

While a proper severe weather safety plan is more complex than we can cover in a short article, it’s important to keep the following factors in mind:

Have a Plan: You need to know in advance what actions you’ll take in the event the weather turns severe. Who will make the decision to take action? How will the decision be communicated? Where is a safe place to take shelter? Having these items in your plan and understood by those in charge is vital.

Monitoring the weather: The National Weather Service regularly issues severe weather alerts and warnings when necessary. Keeping an eye on their broadcasts before and during your event is an important key to keeping everyone safe. These days you don’t need to hire a meteorologist to help you monitor weather alerts and reports. Most local tv news stations will have an app you can download to your phone that will alert you to watches, warnings and alerts from the National Weather Service. The Weather Channel has it’s own app that will even send push notifications to you in the case of lightning strikes or rain nearby. And don’t forget to make someone responsible for monitoring this so there is no question who to turn to if there is a concern.

Informing Guests: When a severe weather alert is being issued (or you’re witnessing one firsthand), it’s important that you have a plan to promptly alert the crowd and give them concrete directions where to go, how long to stay in the safe zone, and how you will communicate with them that the threat has passed. Make sure you have the proper communication tools and processes in place to keep everyone safe.

Plan B: Sometimes a weather event will derail your event altogether. Be prepared to move the event inside or cancel completely if safety dictates it. Take time during your risk assessment stage of planning your event to discuss the parameters of threats that would cause you to relocate the event.

It may cost a small amount in the short term, but the long term savings are enormous if severe weather does strike. The State of Indiana has already paid more than $50 Million for the stage collapse caused by severe weather during a Sugarland concert. Part of those costs might have been avoided if a comprehensive safety plan had been executed when the severe weather approached.

Safety at outdoor events is so important that The American Meteorological Society is putting together a “standard of care” list for all event planners to follow, hoping that it will be widely adopted and help save lives. But we can’t afford to wait. Be sure to include a weather safety plan for all of your events. Hopefully, you’ll never have to use it. But if you do, you’ll be so glad you planned ahead.

If you need professional assistance assessing your risks and drafting your plan, we are here to help. Contact Plan Ahead Events at (800) 379-1092.

We’ve all seen seemingly mild winds pick up tents and inflatables and toss them yards away. It doesn’t take much to create a safety hazard for people, and part of an event planner’s job is to make sure the event is safe for everyone, attendees and vendors alike. We all love having people talk about our events long after they’re complete, but we don’t want them talking about it for all the wrong reasons!

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