Wet Weather Contingency Planning

Wet weather contingency plans

After all your months and months of planning, you get the news you’ve been trying not to think about … rain is predicted on the day of your event. Given that you are usually only granted a window of a couple of days prior to the big day, what are you going to do???
Outdoor events always come with a chance of rain. No matter what the size of your event, and how much we want to wish the bad weather away, you’ll save yourself and your committee a whole lot of stress if you prepare a wet weather contingency plan.
Have the wet weather conversation early in your planning phase and include your contingency plan costs in your event budget. Leaving things to chance and hoping that your event isn’t a wash out will not keep punters dry on the day and WILL impact your events’ profitability.
At the end of the day, you’re basically left with four options – go ahead, postpone, relocate or cancel. Discussing the following items in the planning stage, means you’ll be able to make a well informed decision about what the best option is for you:

  • Can you plan a back up date in advance? – as your event draws closer, you can include your back up date on any advertising that you might do. The more informed your community is, the better. Remember to consult your suppliers and stall holders to make sure they’re available on your alternate date too and to see if there are any fees for re-scheduling.
  • Work out in advance the costs/losses associated with cancelling, relocating or postponing your event against going ahead with potentially smaller attendance. This can definitely influence borderline cancellation decisions.
  • If your event can’t be re-scheduled and the losses will be significant if you cancel, look into whether taking out contingency insurance for your event is an option for you.
  • When will you make the call to cancel/postpone? Keep in mind that time frames can be impacted by contracts with suppliers and stall holders.
  • Who will you need to notify? – all contracted services (make a list of suppliers, performers, rental companies) – all members of your team/committee (another list) – and your community. If possible, put a sign with your rain plan info at the location of your event in the lead up or consider including your rain plan with your advertising.

Location, location, relocation!
Does your venue have covered areas or indoor spaces that can be used if it rains? If the answer is yes, make sure that they are available for use on the day and that you have the keys (if any are needed) – just in case. This could be a school hall, nearby classrooms, library or undercover areas. Plan ahead for which stalls or attractions most need relocation out of the rain. You should think about potential safety concerns, for example, high winds, wet dance/activity areas which could lead to slipping hazards and outdoor electrical sources that need to be under safe cover. Moving things might require a bit of extra work, but it could save the day. If there is only the possibility of a brief downpour and you might only need somewhere for your patrons to take shelter temporarily.
Make sure your whole team, including suppliers, vendors and anybody involved with your event are very clear on what your wet weather contingency plan is. Discuss upfront with ride operators or fireworks suppliers their wet weather plans. Safety issues and insurance for ride suppliers mean that some rides are not able to be operated in the rain but it may be possible than an alternative ride can be supplied instead. Fireworks and rain are not good friends either, but if money has already changed hands, you may be able to arrange to use them for a different event.
Include a wet weather policy in your stall holder agreements, for example – unless threatened by extreme weather our event will go ahead, list any cancellation fees (if appropriate) or refund details, advise the time that final decision will be made and who to get in touch with if they need clarification. It’s really important that you have the contact details of all your suppliers and stall holders so that you can send a group notification (text or email) or direct stall holders to call a central number that has a recorded message advising your cancellation decision rather than having to have your phone glued to your ear for hours.
Turn a negative into a positive by thinking outside the box.
Could a rainy day provide another sponsorship opportunity for you? Someone out there might jump at the opportunity to get their name on, or help with supply of umbrella’s or poncho’s that you could give (or sell!) to those who come along.
Beg, borrow or steal (well, maybe not steal) marquees. Contact your local MP or city councillors’ office. They often have marquees available for loan and they will love the exposure they get from it’s use. They might even pop into or promote your event through their own social media avenues. Also try local real estate agents or even some local businesses who may be able to help. This doesn’t just apply for potential wet weather – marquees are great for a little extra shade on a sunny day too and you can never have too many sponsorship opportunities! Other schools in your area may be able to help out too if they don’t have events on.
Speaking of sponsorship leads me to a quick and shameless plug about our ultimate fete resource – Fete in a Box – where you can sign up to gain access to a huge amount of information that can help you with planning your community event including an organisers guide, supplier brochures and committee and downloadable resources. Oh, and it’s all FREE!!!
But I digress 😉
Once you’ve got your plan in place all you can do from there is monitor weather forecasts as far in advance as possible. The BOM (Bureau of Meteorology) can provide 7 day forecasts for most areas. Other sites offer forecasts up to 10 days ahead but it’s probably best to keep your eye on a few different sites to see if they agree with each other. Obviously the closer you get to your event, the more accurate the forecast is going to be and there are even some sites where you can get the minute-by-minute forecast for your exact location when thunderstorms and lightning are a threat.
There are many corners of this big brown land of ours that experience four seasons in one day, particularly when it comes to outdoor events. Having a wet weather contingency plan could be the difference between $$$’s raised or lost.
“There’s no harm in hoping for the best as long as you’re prepared for the worst” – Stephen King.
Originally published 15 March 2016