Excerpt from the Building Department chapter, “Operationally Speaking,” An Event Operations Guide.

During the practice rounds at one event the building inspector came up to me and told me I had to move some tents in a corporate village. I knew the plans which had been submitted well in advance which should have uncovered the problem which was raised. Upon further review at the building department, the inspector found the plans were submitted, but no one caught the spacing issue. In the end, no tents were moved. This reinforces the fact that even if you begin early errors will occur.

If it is your fault, you will need to ask the building inspectors for options. In almost all cases, something can be done to work around the problem. It may cost you money to solve the problem by either adding additional fire personnel or fire equipment.

The occupancy loads and the safety packages required for each tent should be known in advance and posted in the tents. A contingency plan should be written to accommodate all the people in the event of rain. Weather warning signs come out early enough to give notice of an impending storm, and that the spectators are urged to leave. You tell them the buses are lined up when the warning signs go up to move the people out. In the event of lightning on the course, you will open up all the tents, even corporate, to provide a temporary haven from the weather. Be careful here. It may be misunderstood that if there is a rain storm with no lightning the corporate tents would be open to the spectators. This is not the case.

I have always asked the question to the Fire Marshal: will you overload the occupancy of a tent during a lightning storm knowing that structurally the floor and tent can handle it or would you make the people stand in the lightning storm? I have never received an answer, and we have been lucky enough to have missed those storms. There isn’t a tent big enough at any outdoor event to accommodate the masses in a rain storm, but the Fire Marshal will want to hear your plan. They will also want to know what you are doing about medical services during the event, and the number of toilet facilities.

The building department will want structural drawings of bleachers and possibly some tents, formally approved by a state licensed structural engineer: inspections will be made to insure plans are in compliance. It is not wise to play games with the building department and Fire Marshal. They are covering their jobs, as should you.

This book contains information about what it takes to operate a major event. The information may be applied to any event, as all events contain the same elements. However, you may need to reduce the number of people in different areas for a small event such as security and parking personnel.