The stats are clear: each year in the USA, there are between 50 and 100 days with storms and high winds, according to the National Weather Service statistics. In Canada, it works out to approximately 25 to 35 storms per year, depending on the location. (Environment Canada)
In 2013 we asked our senior stage technicians to calculate the percentage of situations in which they had to deal with a weather alert. The response was impressive: 25% of their events had a weather alert. Fortunately, not all weather alerts actually turn into full out storms or high winds. It is also worth mentioning that wind gusts of more than 40 mph (70 km/h) are even more frequent than high winds.
Clearly there is no getting around it: High winds and storm conditions are a reality that event producers must work with. The weather is something that can never be ignored. Heavy rain, storms, severe thunderstorms, tropical storms and of course hurricanes can affect banners, stands, booths, equipment integrity and most of all, people’s security.
The sheer number of outdoor events each year makes it certain that in the near future, event goers and event personnel will be confronted with storm conditions and their associated risks. Thus, the event producer must be absolutely ready at all times.
When we talk about high winds, we mean in excess of 60 mph (97 km/h) for a stage with backdrops and 80 to 90 mph (128 to 145 km/h) for a stage without backdrops.
How to mitigate the risks of bad weather brings?
The answer is actually quite simple. You need an outdoor stage that can withstand extreme weather. Insist on getting a signed document from your stage provider’s engineers, that specifies the stage structure’s wind resistance, with or without backdrops.
What should be done if there are wind gusts and high winds during an installation?
Simply wait. Wind can make a stage and backdrop assembly outright dangerous. Therefore, it is preferable to wait until the winds have died down. You can also decide not to use the backdrops at all, or roll them up and attach them to the roof of the structure. If the option is available on the stage you are using, you can also use a retractable backdrop system.
To minimize assembly time and make up for event downtime, it is recommended to increase the number of stage assembly technicians.
What should be done if there are wind gusts and high winds just before the event is set to start?
It is important to either raise or lower the backdrops as much as possible to reduce exposed surfaces, to roll up the access ways and leave them open, and secure any equipment that could risk being damaged, such as screens, lights etc. Make sure they can move as little as possible.
What should be done if there are wind gusts and high winds during the event?
The same procedures should be followed: roll up and leave the access ways open, secure any equipment that could risk being damaged and detach or retract the backdrops as much as possible.
If the winds are beyond 40 mph (65 km/h), make sure that the crowd and all non-essential personnel are at least 30 meters (90′) away from the stage. If the wind gusts are up to 50 mph (80 km/h) then all personnel must be at least 30 meters (90′) away from the stage as well.
Weather forecasts are your best friend!
The two words every event producer should have in mind at all times is ‘be prepared’. It is the producer’s responsibility to make sure there is a procedure for every conceivable scenario.
With today’s technology it is now possible and even easy to get access to high performance, extremely precise weather forecasting services. An app like Weather Ops, for example, can give you detailed, hourly predictions, and could be indispensable in helping you avoid very unpleasant surprises during your event.
To sum up, be prepared with detailed procedures, and use high performance equipment to be ready for any situation. Mother Nature is unpredictable. Your best bet is an outdoor stage that is not.