By Jake Geiger

Over the years, we’ve dealt with a plethora of special circumstances on event. This past year was no exception. We added some new ones to the archive and were also visited by some old friends, the uninvited kind. Here is one of our favorites from 2018.

I don’t like sprinklers. I understand their function and purpose, but for some reason they have plagued me (and others) for the entirety of my 15-year career in event production. In fact, I get a small twitch whenever I hear a sprinkler go off nearby. The sound instantly makes me want to find a shut-off valve. However, they are a necessary evil that must be confronted while working with event sites. On all of our event checklists, you’ll see this note near the top in bold: double/triple check with site contact that sprinklers are turned off prior to load-in, for duration of the event.

In one instance, during a pre-event walk through with the site’s grounds keeper (a.k.a. the expert in sprinkler operations), he marked out the sprinkler lines so we could stake our tents and confirmed that all necessary zones were shut off. He seemed confident, but we knew better. Sprinklers have a mind of their own. That night, towards the end of a very late load-in, after the tents were up, the signage was placed, and the stage and PA were set, we heard that unmistakable sound in the distance: sprinklers. As the sound got closer and closer, I was thinking two things:

  1. Call the grounds keeper (who is on speed dial) and say “hello.”
  2. Initiate sprinkler lock-down protocol.

Obviously, we did the latter first and would save the former until there was more time for a constructive conversation. We needed to get to work ASAP. We’ve been down this soggy road before and knew what to do.

Operation sprinkler lock-down goes like this:

  1. Grab the largest traffic cones you have and place them over the sprinkler heads closest to your most valuable assets (Stage & PA), while trying to avoid being high-pressure sprayed at close range.
  2. Repeat step 1 until all sprinkler heads are covered.
  3. Grab plastic sheeting and cover assets in case of traffic cone failure. In our case, the sprinklers were of the ultra-super-powerful variety. Lucky us.
  4. With all cones in place, follow their straight line pattern to the edge of the field. Locate the green junction box and remove the cap. (Note: Flathead screwdrivers are handy for this.)
  5. Find the yellow handle and pull up so it’s perpendicular to the pipe.
  6. Repeat step 5 as needed.
  7. Rejoice when sprinklers are all off.
  8. Call grounds keeper.

Luckily, we were able to quell most of the sprinkler deluge. A few t-shirts and tablecloths lost the battle, but all key assets emerged unscathed thanks to our staff’s quick thinking and knowledge of our engrained, sprinkler lock-down protocol. When confronted, the grounds keeper recalled forgetting to turn off the timer, which superseded the computer shut-off valve. Mental note: add timer shut-off confirmation to check-list.

A wise man once told me, “There’s nothing quite like the unpredictable nature of a live event. You have to be ready for just about anything. Or, at minimum, be ready to handle any situation that arises.” With years of experience and knowledge sharing comes the ability to think and act quickly and deal with any unexpected situation. We all like to think we’ve come up with every possible contingency plan, but we know better and realize that just isn’t possible. Our resourceful team and our ability to act quickly are key to the success we bring to our projects and clients.

Want to share your event war stories with us? Head over to our Facebook or Instagram accounts and tell us about your most memorable special circumstance on event.


In his 14 years with Event 360, Jake has delivered exceptional event experiences from the planning phase all the way through to implementation. Specializing in complex event operations, Jake also works with local sites, jurisdictions, EMS, police and fire to ensure our sites and safety planning are top notch. Currently, Jake oversees planning and operations for the MMRF Team for Cures 5K series in 13 cities across the US, the MMRF Journey Endurance Run/Relay, and the Shatterproof Rise Up Against Addiction 5K in seven cities.

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