As professional event and meeting planners, we try to be in full control of our event to insure flawless execution, happy clients and delighted attendees. One thing we can’t control however, no matter how well we plan, is the weather.
Inclement weather can cause havoc at events. The less predictable and severe weather patterns of the past few years can prove disastrous, even deadly. Event and meeting planners can no longer afford to not have a contingency plan in place to deal with weather as part of an overall emergency strategy of the planning process.
SAFETY IS KEY
Eventinterface is located in Scottsdale, AZ. We are blessed with incredible winter weather. Temperatures rarely go below 50F or over 75F during the winter months. It’s the ideal weather for outdoor events, sporting events and festivals as this week attests with the Phoenix Open, Super Bowl and countless related parties and festivals. When the rest of the country is freezing or snowed under, we are enjoying the outdoors. In the summer we hide indoors as the temperatures soar above 110F. Naturally, all of our outdoors events are hosted from late fall to early spring, the opposite from most of the country. This “ideal” weather does not mean we don’t have to consider rain, thunderstorms, flash floods and the occasional dust storm.
As you plan events, attendee safety must be a priority. Here are our tips to insure you have a solid plan in place.
1. Mentally walk through your event with the planning team and vendors, and envision everything that could go wrong. For example: Will the dust in the dirt parking area cause visibility or breathing issues? Should there be a thunderstorm; are there areas for attendees to find safe shelter? If you have staging, will the structure be able to withstand high winds? If it rains, can we have the event?
2. In cooperation with the venue, first responders and event leadership develop an emergency action plan based on the issues you have discovered. Insure that all staff and event volunteers are trained on the procedures and know what to do. This will also help with event set-up, securing evacuation routes and overall event safety for your attendees.
3. Monitor the weather continuously in the weeks leading up to the event, and closely right before and during the event. For outdoor events we monitor National Weather Service broadcasts for up-to-date information allowing for immediate action and evacuation in the event of an oncoming storm, monsoon or sand storm. Also know your audience. If your event is hosted in an environment that tends to be rainy, attendees may be less inclined to panic when it rains, and the event may go on as planned. In our area, people are not used to drive in rain and outdoor facilities are not equipped to manage rain well, so the response will be different.
4. Define clear roles on the event management team. What is the chain of command? Who makes the call when emergency procedures need to be implemented? Under what circumstances can the chain of command be bypassed to make a call on the spot? Work closely with the venue and first responders on establishing a chain of command and insure that all event staff and volunteers are trained to understand its workings.
5. Have in place the tools to communicate quickly with event attendees in the event of an emergency. Event software such as Eventinterface allows planners to text registered attendees with updates, emergency information and other pertinent event information.
ABOUT AL WYNANT
Al Wynant has 25 years of international event management experience. He has managed events from 50 to 125,000 attendees in seven countries. He intimately understands the many aspects of event and meeting management, and how technology can make the complicated process of planning and managing events, and engaging attendees easier, helpful in his role as CEO at Eventinterface.
Al studied in Europe and traveled with the international educational program Up with People. He has worked as a Marketing and Public Relations Representative working concert tours in the United States, Switzerland, Belgium and the United Kingdom. He ran event management firm A6 where he was responsible for the management of a large variety of conferences and events in the Southwest and in Atlanta, High Point and New York City.
Leadin photograph: Spring sandstorm or Haboob rolling into Scottsdale 2014. Photo by Al Wynant.