Over the past 12 months the outdoor event industry has suffered a number of headline-making incidents that have brought the safety of these events, and the structures used to produce them, to the consciousness of the average event attendee. The goal of this short article is that you, the readerwho may be organizing such an eventknow what to look and ask for from your own vendors.
Vendors: Just because your vendor owns some truss doesn't mean that he is qualified to erect it outdoors. Look for a reputable company, seemingly well versed in outdoor structure erection for your job. Ask them for references and call those references to check on their work and professionalism. Ask them for copies of their liability insurance certificates. Ask them if any of their staff are ETCP qualified (http://etcp.plasa.org).
Structure Design: Erecting any structure outdoors brings a challenging set of considerations, such as weather, changing light conditions, seismic factors, power restrictions, site access, unpredictable foundations, etc. As a result, your vendor should be well prepared to deal with any of these events, starting with a purpose-designed structure, not just a load of truss that they intend to throw a PVC skin over. A design and use standard for outdoor stage roofs already exists and is presently being amended to encompass most outdoor structures used in the event industry. The document is called "American National Standard E1.21 2006" (Entertainment Technology Temporary Ground-Supported Overhead Structures Used to Cover the Stage Areas and Support Equipment in the Production of Outdoor Entertainment Events) and is readily available where all good standards are sold, and here: http://tsp.plasa.org/tsp/documents/ published_docs.php
If your vendor doesn't know what E1.21 is, then move along until you find one that does.
Management: Just knowing about the relevant standards doesn't mean that the vendor knows what it means to conform to them. In the wake of the recent Indiana incident, a group of industry professionals came together to create the "Event Safety Alliance" (www.eventsafetyalliance.org), whose goal is to address the immediate need for universal safety standards for the production of live events. Among other things the ESA has produced a resources page on its website that provides a link to a document called "Requirement for Outdoor Event Structures." Look for it toward the bottom of the Resources page. Included in this document is a thorough guide and checklist to what any event operator should consider before producing any outdoor event. Read it, use it and make sure you know who is responsible at your event for all of the duties and actions the document considers. It could certainly be tempting to think that this information only relates to large events, however, any size [of ] outdoor event that uses a structure presents the potential to cause harm or loss when that structure is not designed, erected and managed in the correct way. Unfortunately, much of this professionalism does come at a financial cost, but considering the alternativesurely you can't put a price on someone's life and well-being.