By Rene Tamayo

As an event production manager for outdoor/multi day events, my staff and I have experienced some pretty rough inclement weather over the past 10+ years. I think back and remember the two nor’easters that slammed down on our event in Philadelphia over one weekend, the hazardous heat conditions in Boston that closed down our event for a couple of days and various lightning storms striking in the middle of the night. However, just when you think you’ve been through the worst, something else comes along to let you know that more can and will happen during any live event.

How do you plan for the unexpected? Is there anything that you can do to prevent mother nature from wreaking havoc on your event site? How do you keep your team moving forward and focused when everything around you has been flattened to the ground?

Check out this video…

This video was sent to me at about 3:30 in the morning as I was driving with my Operations Manager, Tom, to our event site for the Opening Ceremony of the Susan G. Komen Twin Cities 3-Day. We both watched the video and just looked at each other and thought…HOLY CRAP! The night before, only a few hours earlier, we had left the event site perfectly set up. It was beautiful and ready to go. At 2:35 a.m. it was reported to us that a microburst storm descended on the town of Edina, MN and within 25 minutes, the 60+ mile-an-hour winds, torrential rain and lighting had flattened our event site. In less than 20 minutes, all of our hard work over the past couple of days had been brought to the ground.

In the car, before we arrived at the site, questions were racing through my head. How significant was the damage? Would we still be able to start the event and execute our Opening Ceremony? Was the stage and sound equipment ok? Was there inclement weather forecast for the rest of the morning? Were we going to have to cancel the Opening Ceremony? Even through all these thoughts, I remember speaking with Tom and filling him in on a conversation I had the day before with our spokesperson for the event. She was speaking about breast cancer and all of the challenges that folks face on a day to day basis. She was insisting that regardless of what is happening to you or around you, whether it be challenges with this, that, or the other, we need to keep moving in a forward direction. We need to stay focused on what needs to happen and regardless of what has happened around us, we need to move ahead. We both agreed that we needed to make this event happen no matter what needed to be done. With that, we arrived at the event site and here are how things unfolded:

4:00 a.m.

  • Meet with the event site manager and assess the damage.
  • Lighting begins striking about six to eight miles from the site; I provide direction to the staff to move into their vehicles to remain safe until further notice.
  • We continually keep our eyes on our phones and the weather, specifically to see when the lighting has passed and it is safe to work again.
  • I call the event director to bring her in on the details and she in turn notifies the client.
  • We begin to make calls to other staff to get them to the site earlier.

4:30 a.m.

  • Lightning has passed and has moved out of our 10-mile radius; I communicate to the staff that it is ok for them to continue their duties.
  • Roughly 200 volunteers begin to show up, with a majority of the participants arriving at 5:00 a.m.
  • Our ceremony site coordinator contacted the mall that is next to our event site and they agreed to open the doors to the mall to allow volunteers and participants to wait indoors until closer to the start time of the ceremony.
  • The stage team did a great job securing their sound equipment the night before, so, we are good to go on sound. Woo Hoo!
  • As participants arrive at the event site, our traffic control volunteers direct everyone into the mall until further notice (we need to buy some time to put the site back together again).

5:00 a.m.

  • While participants are arriving and moving into the mall, the event staff continues their work restoring the site.
  • One twenty-foot mural wall frame snapped in half and the second frame is missing half the banner. These are removed by forklift and put behind the stage.
  • A photo banner tent (4 sides of banners) has rolled over and landed about 200 feet away in a mound of aluminum and vinyl. This is also moved out and hidden behind a tent.
  • One stage side scrim is off; we take the other one off to balance out both sides. More work continues to be done on the stage to get things ready again.
  • Barricades and banners are put back into place and adjustments are made to a variety of other event collateral throughout the site.

5:30 a.m.

  • The rain is subsiding and it looks like we will have a break in the weather for the morning. Second Woo Hoo!
  • Alternate protocols are put into place for some of the programs we do at the site.
  • Volunteers are asked to head out from the mall to the site to assist with the last items on the list.
  • The site is still not quite complete, but things continue to come together.

6:00 a.m.

  • The site is ready to receive participants.
  • Participants exit the mall and begin to enter the event site.
  • Music is playing and announcements are happening.

7:00 a.m.

  • The Opening Ceremony for the Twin Cities 3-Day begins as planned. Third…Woo Hoo! Whew!

So, what were the lessons?

  • Set the expectation with your team to expect the unexpected.
  • As the leader of the team, ensure that you and your team remain calm, keep everyone safe and stay focused on moving forward and accomplishing the goal at hand.
  • And finally and most importantly, have a GREAT staff. With great people we can make great things happen!

Thanks for reading and until next time…over and out!

Rene Tamayo brings to the Event 360 team more than 12 years of experience in the event business. As the Event Execution Manager, he oversees all aspects of the event production including staffing, management and execution of the event series.


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