When a corporate event, a wedding, a special event, party or fundraiser is planned for outdoors, often an event tent or party tent will be required. Protection from the elements and providing for a central gathering area is essential. Over the years I’ve collected a few horror stories involving outdoor events. Some of the worst stories involved workers not realizing exactly where the power lines are located – both overhead and underground. Be sure to use an insured rental company who works with a qualified and trained staff to make sure your next event is a safe and enjoyable affair.
POOR INSTALLATION: A South Carolina hotel’s expansive grounds provided the perfect backdrop for a young couple’s wedding mid-afternoon reception. The wedding planner had spent two long days with her crew decorating the inside of a high-top marquee tent. It rained the night before the wedding. The tent company (from Florida) had staked the marquee tent in the grass; however, something had not gone well. The tent accumulated a lot of rain in drooped pockets on the roof and by late morning, many of the stakes pulled up. The reception was forced to move inside the hotel lobby, not an ideal solution as there was barely enough room for the guests.
POWER LINES: Two workers were killed and two others injured when a tent pole struck a power line at Thorn Hill Farms in McClellanville, SC. Dexter Keyes, 37, and John Fortney, 45 of Stage Presence Equipment Rentals were electrocuted when the metal tent pole they were erecting touched a low hanging power line over the site. (Projection, Lights & Staging News: PLSN.com)
STRONG WINDS: Last summer in Washington D.C., severe weather caused trees to topple. A permanent tent erected in the National Mall collapsed from the powerful wind gusts where several people had taken shelter. Luckily, all were rescued and no one was seriously injured. (WJLA.com news)
MICROBURST: “DALLAS COWBOYS BUBBLE TENT COLLAPSES” This structure is not the traditional event rental, but a bubble canopy. 70-80mph winds and a crazy microburst are the leading contenders for why the tent collapsed. Three people were seriously injured, including the Cowboy’s scouting assistant who is permanent paralyzed. (Story here)
STRONG WINDS: At a University of Buffalo graduation ceremony the winds became stronger and stronger. As people at the event noticed the weather getter worse, they asked to move the ceremonies inside. Shortly thereafter the tent collapsed. (WGRZ.com)
YET MORE STRONG WINDS: 5,000 festival goers were under the Oktoberfest Bier Garden tent and about 2,000 people were under another tent when they collapsed from strong winds. 21 people were taken to the hospital. (TulsaWorld.com)
Not all tents are staked in the ground. Some are built specifically to handle strong wind loads. Saddle spans, (ask known as saddlespan tents) for instance, are rated for up to a 70mph wind gust and are not always anchored into the ground via traditional tent stakes. Some tents use special eco-ballast (large recycled concrete blocks) as an anchoring system and many tents use water ballast tanks. All these anchor systems can work extremely well when installed correctly by trained crew. Some tents such as TopTents newest addition to the marketplace are specially designed to even withstand snow loads.
- Is the tent material Fire Resist (not just Fire-Rated, it must be Fire Resistant)
- What is the tent material? Some of the safest materials are manufactured with Polythene (PE) and Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC).
- How old are the tents and have they been rated recently?
- Are the framing materials rated? Are they structurally sound?
- What is the dollar amount of liability on the tents? Ask for a fax or copy of the certificate of insurance.
- Will the tents be staked or held with ballasts?
- Are the tents rated for wind, snow or other bad weather conditions? Ask the tent rental company to elaborate – how strong of winds are the structures rated for? etc.
- Make sure you understand the different style of tents being offered and each of their ratings.
- Will the tents be inspected by the Fire Department after setup?
- The single most critical safety decision you will make in relationship to installing a tent is the site location and the potential underground and or overhead utilities including: gas lines, power lines, septic and sewer lines, sprinkler systems, fiber optic cables, telephone transmission lines. The importance of taking the time to do whatever it takes to make a safe event cannot be overstated enough. CALL BEFORE YOU DIG OR STAKE!