Do I really need a risk assessment?
May 4, 2015
Show all

Another often asked question for Right Angle Events staff is ‘what happens if it rains?’ – an understandable query, especially with Melbourne’s sometimes fickle weather.

The answer to this depends heavily on the size and scale of the event you are running.

For large scale events, attracting mass crowds in outdoor public spaces, the idea of a true ‘weather contingency’ (ie a plan to allow all elements of the event to go ahead despite poor weather) is an impossible dream. For an event like the Moomba Parade for example, our weather plan is to monitor the situation, and adapt to the conditions as they arise. While all key equipment is built weatherproof where possible, this is likely to mean parts of the parade are removed from the program based on their ability to cope with the conditions, resulting in cut down event content. At worst case the Event may need to be cancelled, with detailed procedures in place to implement the cancellation and communicate the message to the Public in attendance. Clearly, for an event on this scale, relocating or postponing the event is not an option, so it is a matter of having plans to progress as well as you can in the circumstances.

New Year’s Eve in the past few years has seen some of the most extreme weather imaginable – from intense heat to massive storms. The plans for this event include detailed structures for how decisions are made regarding the progress of parts of the event (eg. fireworks), and crucially, complete cancellation is a last resort. Often cancelling or ceasing activity at a major event provides more risk factors for attendees than continuing with at least some content and management of the event.

For smaller events with smaller crowd sizes (eg a media launch, company picnic or VIP function) it can be possible to arrange contingency locations where the event could move to at short notice should conditions deteriorate. For example, events held in Federation Square often list the enclosed Atrium space as a fall back option to move to if required.

Of course, the issue with contingency planning is cost. Having a back-up venue, stand by marquee, or even 100 umbrellas on hand comes at significant cost to the event – cost that may be for nothing if the weather is kind. Suppliers are unlikely to hold venues and equipment for you at no cost just in case you need it – you will mostly have to pay to have the facilities on standby, and most event budgets don’t have the luxury of paying for elaborate back up plans. The balance is in understanding the likelihood and feasibility of a move or change of venue, and determining the worth of paying for a standby option. For most events, the reality is that you cannot afford true contingencies for all scenarios, so you cover what you can, and make sure you have plans for partial or complete cancellation if required.

Melbourne weather also often dictates the timing of outdoor events – creating a crowding of the event calendar in traditional stable weather months like November and March. The issue for new events is to find a space in the crowded calendar, meaning many people are looking beyond the traditional summer period for event dates. As weather patterns alter, and date demand increases, we believe the trend will be for more Spring (Sep – Oct) and Autumn (April – May) events.

In this town you can never predict that your outdoor event will be unaffected by weather, regardless of when it is held. Our advice is to plan for what you can, make the most of any situation as it arises, and have a clear plan for cancelling or altering the event if required.

Leave a Reply