Jim Foerster is the Director of the Meteorology Operations team at DTN, where he oversees more than 50 meteorologists providing weather forecasts and consultation to businesses making critical decisions around safety or operations.
Weather Planning Tips for a Successful Event
Nothing ruins an outdoor event faster than severe weather. However, intentional planning for weather conditions is key for a successful outdoor event or meeting. Weather can be tricky and hard to predict, but with a little insight and a few tips, any event planner can be prepared for what’s in the forecast.
Most people rely on free weather apps for up-to-date weather alerts. However, they lack real-time, location-specific information, are unreliable and can’t accurately predict where and when lightning will strike. Delayed lightening detection is nearly as bad as not having it at all. It can provide a false sense of security and can be the difference between getting people to safety before it strikes and putting lives at risk. A severe weather plan should be part of the overall event plan and should include evacuation routes.
Every venue is different and has unique circumstances surrounding evacuation procedures and severe weather plans. Surveying a site beforehand can help identify challenges early to make necessary changes. It is equally important to identify nearby indoor structures that can accommodate the number of expected attendees in case of an evacuation. If there are not enough structures to accommodate everyone, directing them to fully-enclosed vehicles until the storm clears is often the only option.
It is important to consider the size of the crowd when setting weather criteria which will determine the timing of an evacuation. If there is a smaller crowd or the event is spread out, such as at a golf course, then the event can continue longer because it will take less time to get attendees to a safe environment. For a larger crowd or venue such as an arena, the criteria must be set so that there is enough time to evacuate the venue and get the entire crowd to safety.
If the venue doesn’t provide a weather monitoring service, there are commercial weather services such as DTN that provide meteorological support for individual events. They are highly trained (degreed and certified) meteorologists who consult on the different factors that could affect an event. They can navigate uncertainty pertaining to constantly evolving weather patterns, providing 24/7 weather counsel and informing you of unfavorable weather conditions that can impact the event.
There can be economic pressure to resume the event as soon as possible after an evacuation. An onsite meteorologist can provide expert advice and guidance in deciding when it is safe to resume. Experts can also provide logical reasoning behind why an evacuation was necessary so that there is no question as to whether it was the right call. This takes the stress of decision-making off of event staff so they can focus on other aspects.
Onsite meteorologists might not be the right fit for every event. It is still best to stray away from using a free weather app. There are two other levels of service to consider, depending on the size and budget of the event – meteorologist monitoring your event from an off-site location; or online weather monitoring and alerting that you do yourself with support from a meteorologist. These still give planners peace of mind and allows them to focus on other aspects of the event.
Investing in weather-related services is a lot like paying for car insurance. You hope you never have to use your car insurance just as you hope you won’t have to turn to a meteorologist if severe weather strikes at an event. But with both of these, you are always glad you have it when something does go wrong.