Dax Cochran oversees sales and business partnerships for DTN’s Event Safety and Entertainment markets managing all day to day development and sales strategies with a goal of increasing safety standards throughout the production and entertainment industries. In this position for over 9 years, Dax is heavily involved with safety initiatives and non-profits to grow awareness and implement culture change to benefit the entire industry.
We can’t stop the weather from happening, but we can work to keep everyone safe and strive for successful events in the face of weather. So what we can do plan for and manage our weather risk?
Proper planning, information, communication, and action will serve to significantly reduce the impacts.
Every event needs it own unique weather plan. There are simply too may variables to consider from event to event and no single plan works for all.
The good news is that you should be able to gather all of the information you need for a planning strategy that is ever-evolving. With a planning foundation, you should be able to work to identify threats, scenarios, etc. and plan towards your desired outcome. Gathering intelligence on possible weather threats along with details for your specific event is the best place to start.
First, gain a climatological understanding for your event location and date.
Simply stated, gain an understanding of what weather conditions and threats can be expected historically. Many global weather station network records go back decades so you should be able to get good data on anticipated temperatures, precipitation, winds, etc. which will help determine if you could see issues with hydration, hypothermia, saturated event grounds, and life safety issues.
Climate change has made this less dependable for some areas of the globe, but having a baseline can help to prioritise potential threats.
For example, some annual events are now dealing with lightning threats that may not have existed a decade ago. The good news is that reliable global lightning networks are available, as is weather support and guidance for any potential threat.
With threats prioritised, weather action plans and trigger charts provide a base line for communication and training. These documents provide the foundation for your overall weather management.
When this initial planning is in place, the other parts of comprehensive weather management fall into place much easier.
Events strive to create better and better experiences for attendees and with each change to an event, weather plans must also be revisited and updated.
Remember, plans are living documents and are most effective when they are routinely reviewed and updated.
Be sure to review any changes to attendance, layout, etc. and other things that could require updating your weather action plan.
With an understanding of potential threats and a weather action plan, you must also decide where you are going to get your weather forecasts and information.
Outdoor events should have an independent resource to provide forecasts for threats such as winds, lightning, rainfall, and temperature. These services can provide expertise in your event’s local area or have specific focus on the event industry, which are good points to consider when selecting a resource.
In addition, these services likely provide alerting tools tailored to your event’s need to notify management and essential personnel of imminent weather threats.
Most importantly, be sure to have direct access to a meteorologist with experience in operational forecasting. Consulting a degreed professional on potential and imminent impacts as part of your weather plan and decision making process is critical to ensuring not only a safe event, but also helps to maximise business operations despite troublesome weather.
With many weather information options, you must ensure that your event receives location-specific forecasts and alerts customised to your weather plan and tolerances guided by a meteorologist to consult when making decisions.
Weather management does not stop with a plan and a forecast.
Too many times I have seen events invest in top weather support services but failed to establish a communication structure to update necessary stakeholders and achieve smooth plan activations and decision making.
The best weather support in the world will be ineffective if no one knows what to do or who all should be notified with this information when they receive it. So, as you decide on weather sources, be sure to have an action plan and communication channel established with organised and timely information disseminated to necessary personnel.
A breakdown in communication can lead to loss of critical time when making safety decisions if weather is imminent. Also, having this established along with a plan to restore after the threat has passed is crucial if you plan to resume the event.
As part of this process, events should also account for messaging to the audience if the event is to be interrupted.
Once an event has established its plan as well its source for weather information, it is important to train all essential staff and departments on the plan, weather information, and tools required to access it.
Most weather offerings provide training on their specific solution but you should also seek basic weather training for your staff. This has proven to be quite helpful in my experience. When people have more knowledge on where this data comes from it really helps to better understand the weather information coming to you.
For example, I often help educate event managers comparing radar and lightning systems. Most of the time, people are not aware of the significant delay when looking at radar on a map. The amount of time it takes a provider to ingest, process, and output radar data can vary, but you are always looking at minimum delays of minutes.
When considering evacuating a crowd, this is important to know compared to lightning data which can have almost no delay. With a good lightning source, you can routinely expect an alert on your phone within seconds of the strike occurring. It is also common to get the alert before you even hear the thunder if the strike is within earshot.
During set up and on event days, weather must be actively managed and planned for.
As part of daily operations, weather information and forecasts should be reviewed with a clear process to escalate if there is potential for weather to create a problem. With so many types of data and weather content available, the most important resource for daily weather management is direct access to a meteorologist.
Forecasts, alerts, and maps are necessary, but professionals should be in the loop as decisions are made. Many events will leverage on-site forecasters or a remote service as part of their incident command and communication structure.
As many experts and focus groups suggest, an event should designate a “weather-watcher” on site if the event is working with meteorologists remotely. This person is tasked with communicating between weather information sources and the rest of the stakeholders. They also have daily tasks assigned which may involve reviewing the forecast, initiating communication with remote meteorologists, and communicating info to ensure there is a good weather management plan for the day.
If a forecast presents the potential for one of your plan’s triggers to be breached, the weather-watcher should engage the forecaster and establish communication with the rest of the team. From here, a plan can be made for that specific day in terms of when the team will review updated forecasts, make decisions, etc.
This approach is far more effective than waiting for a call or an alert.
With more outdoor events and the tricky antics of climate change, weather remains one of the most likely safety threats to an event.
The good news is that enhanced technology and advancements arm event managers to understand, plan for, and mitigate these threats.
I am entrenched on this front, working day in and day out to ensure events around the world have good weather support and guidance to make the best decisions in an effort to have both a safe, and successful production.
Remember, we can’t keep the weather from happening, but we can manage its impact on our industry.