Severe Weather Summit advises event organizers on best practices

The people in charge of making sure the rest of us enjoy our experiences all converged on the National Weather Center this week.

They were all people who make sure concerts, music festivals, community celebrations, and sporting events are conducted in an orderly fashion. And if there's one thing that interrupts that order with ultimate chaos, it's weather.

"Everyone that enters the event site needs to plan," said Hadden Hipplsey, owner and President of event and production management company Lambda Productoins.

The event operations and management professionals all came for the 2019 Severe Weather Summit, a series of lectures and informational meetings organized by the Event Safety Alliance. Here, event organizers and managers can consult with each other and learn best practices from people who have been there.

On Thursday, seminars covered the issues that come with attempting your own meteorology, what the private sector and National Weather Service offer in terms of resources, and what a few gusts of wind can do to wreak havoc on temporary event structures.

But as Hipplsey noted in his lecture, all of that knowledge needs a proper plan in order to be used. And that plan needs to be able to adapt to pretty much anything.

"Emergencies do not follow scripts," Hipplsey said. "Your plan shouldn't force you to, either."

Troy Willrick knows all about that. Willrick is the senior director of event and emergency services for Daytona International Speedway. On top of multiple races, the venue hosts concerts, Boy Scout jamborees, and various other gatherings.

And well-publicized accidents over the years at the marquee NASCAR event have prompted Willrick and his team to continually adjust their plans.

"When you start to have flaming debris going into where your spectators are, that's when you need a contingency plan," Willrick said.

When monitoring any incoming weather, Willrick and Hippsley advised event organizers to keep in mind what kind of event it is, the timing and how long it might take to evacuate the area. And be straight, Willrick said; there's no need to suggest that maybe someone might want to take shelter, for instance.

"When we pull the trigger, it has to be a clear decision between the emergency manager, the promoter or the artist or the athletes, and the live media coverage," Willrick said.

And whatever the decision or status, communication to the audience is key.

"The goal is to keep fans and employees informed from a single source," Willrick said.

As the Spring season gets underway, the amount of outdoor events -- like Norman Music Festival and the Medieval Fair -- will increase. That's why the professionals gathered on Thursday and Friday were brushing up on what to do and how to prepare for anything Mother Nature will throw in the way.

It's important to know who makes the call.

"A chain or command is very easy to put on paper, something saying here's the person who makes the ultimate decision," HIppsley said. "Democracies don't work in emergency situations."

Read at The Norman Transcript>>>

Jacob Worek