Weather Permitting: Special Considerations for Planning Outdoor Events
Festivals and other outdoor events have maximum appeal as long as the weather cooperates. But, what if it doesn’t? No matter how “reliable” the date you’ve chosen for your event, you have to be prepared for inclement weather. It can be a small annoyance, or it can cancel the whole event.
It’s hard for attendees to enjoy themselves if they’re soaking wet or roasting under a way-too-hot sun. You can put up extra tents or hand out sponsor-branded plastic ponchos or paper parasols. But what about protecting rigging and equipment? Hosting an outdoor event requires special considerations to ensure everything is secure, protected, and functional under adverse conditions.
Safety is the number one concern at outdoor events, and weather can play an unwanted role at any time. Here are some key issues to think about and prepare for:
Wind. Rain. Lightning. Uh oh.
A light breeze is refreshing on a warm day. But high winds can tear down staging, rigging, and send other items flying, endangering people and equipment. You’ll need to take precautions to make sure all equipment is secure in the event of strong winds. Between your local fire marshal and rigging/stage team, they can tell you wind rating requirements for outdoor events like yours.
Rain is water, and that doesn’t mix well with electricity. Proper coverings and protections are critical for making sure your equipment weathers the storm.
Unpredicted weather that bring significant wind and/or rain may also bring lightning. Make sure you have designated safe areas and an alert system in place should people need to take shelter quickly during your event.
Every outdoor event needs an inclement weather response plan. Whether you suspect a storm may be rolling in or it comes out of the blue, proper planning can help avoid a potential disaster. Your plan should clearly define who will do what if a problem arises. If you have to evacuate the venue or cancel the event altogether, time may be a critical factor. Your production crew should continuously be monitoring weather and equipment during your event.
You may want to use a mobile stage instead of a traditional steel truss construction. In many cases, these units have a higher wind rating because of their design.
Custom rigging includes not only the truss structure but also audio gear, lights, and other suspended items such as curtains or an LED wall. It all has to be safe and secure. The most vulnerable equipment is your power sources — cables, distro boxes, breaker boxes, and generators, so look to protect those first.
It’s not always possible to locate everything under tents, especially if your event is something like a 5K run with speakers along the route. The simplest solution may be weather-proof covers for equipment not otherwise protected. But this isn’t always feasible.
If there is any indication weather may be sketchy, your AV team may elect to use specialized equipment that meets International Protection standards. IP-rated sound, video, and lighting equipment performs the same but has sealed housing that keeps out dust and moisture. Battery back-ups could come in handy, too.
Knowing what can go wrong and the consequences of inclement weather, expected or not, does not mean you have to scale back or skip that stunning LED backdrop. It just means your AV production pros should plan accordingly. What’s a little wind or rain? There’s no reason your event can’t go off as expected. Well, almost.