Severe weather is a dangerous meteorological phenomenon with the potential to cause damage, serious social disruption, or loss of life. Disasters occur when natural hazards intersect with people and structures. Before a weather event happens, it is important to have a plan and know beforehand who is in charge and how decisions will be made to protect the public and limit damage. The type of plan needed will depend on several factors:
- Access in and out of the event location
- Structures both permanent and temporary
Before the skies become dark, a severe weather risk management plan should be in place. Take the following steps to develop a comprehensive weather action plan:
DEFINE THE WEATHER THREATS
- RAIN Might not be considered "severe" but can cause flooding and damage to equipment.
- THUNDERSTORMS Depending on the level of strength, can produce floods, lightning, hail, damaging winds and tornadoes.
- WIND The most difficult threat to anticipate clearly and can cause damage without being technically severe. The danger is not when the storm on the radar reaches you - it is the gusts in front of the storm which are often ahead of the radar echo that can cause the most damage.
- HAIL Can damage structures, equipment and people.
- LIGHTNING This is a major cause of storm related deaths in the United States. If lightning is forecast, it needs to be tracked and a plan of action is needed at different radius points.
COMMAND CENTER AND CHAIN OF COMMAND
Establish a Severe Weather Command Center. The command center will be the focal point for monitoring weather threats and communicating the threats to the designated decision makers. Weather should be monitored at all times – there needs to be consistent situational awareness of any potential severe weather threat.
The roles and responsibilities for each area of the event and venue need to be clearly defined. Decide how many and who should participate in the decision-making group. It is especially important to determine who can “pull the plug” on the event if necessary.
This team should train or have a “dress rehearsal” before the event so that there is a clear understanding of the escalation procedures, what action is required and who has the final decision-making authority.
DEVELOP A PLAN OR TRIGGER CHART
The plan will determine the escalation and notification procedures during a severe weather event. A Trigger Chart can be used to clearly define what actions should be taken in response to a specific weather threat. It will help remove the guesswork out of on the spot decision making and provide a clear communication defining specific weather triggers and the specific reactions to those triggers. The Trigger Chart is location and venue specific. The Trigger Chart should be reviewed at pre-event meetings and training drills rehearsed so everyone is familiar with what should happen at what time and who makes the final decision.
KNOW YOUR RESOURCES
- National Weather Service Forecast Offices (www.weather.gov)
- Storm Prediction Center (www.spc.noaa.gov)
- Local television and radio meteorologists.
- Trained Storm Spotters - an individual trained on severe weather spotting techniques, cloud formations and weather conditions.
- Private Sector Meteorologists - Private sector meteorologists can provide the most up-to-date information and a specific forecast for the precise venue location.
- Local emergency response officials.
DUTY OF CARE
The ultimate goal is to produce a successful and safe event. Identify your available partners and expert resources in advance. Being proactive and being prepared for severe weather even when the sun is shining is a benefit.
The stage collapse at the Indiana State Fairgrounds in August 2011 caused seven fatalities and over 40 injuries. Although structural design was a cause of the stage collapse, lack of communication played a significant role. The State Police special operations commander was watching the storm on radar when he and the fair Executive Director decided it was time to evacuate the crowd. A minute later the program director announced to the crowd that the show would go on. Some attendees left sensing danger but the majority remained.
Contact your HUB Entertainment team to assist in identifying weather risks and in developing a severe weather action plan for your event.