When We Are Right, We’re Still Wrong

A video clip about a possible storm approaching and how the storm could disrupt a flower show under a clear span tent revealed some disturbing things. The tent company did everything right; the clear span structure was ballasted correctly and the installation followed the manufacturer’s guidelines. However, in the video the reporter and landscape person maintained that the tent was a safe haven if the storm arrived, and they both suggested that attendees seek safety inside the tent. But, that was not such a great idea in the Village of Wood Dale last summer.


We cannot control what the client says or does during a potential storm, but we can produce an evacuation plan that states the procedures to follow if threating weather approaches. We cannot make the client follow the rules, however, having the client sign an evacuation plan document means the tent vendor has performed their due diligence.

The first thing we need to do is educate ourselves by knowing the limitations of a temporary tent or membrane structure. We also need to educate our clients and AHJ’S about these limitations and how to enact the evacuation plan.

We start by creating model evacuation plans. We need to have more than one evacuation plan because one evacuation plan does not fit all circumstances. The concept for the new SAFTSE model evacuation plan makes the number of attendees the trigger. The first model’s trigger number is less than 150, the next model is between 150 – 500 attendees, and the last model is 500 -1000. The Event Safety Alliance Group covers events over 1,000 attendees. As the number of attendees and the size of the event grows the responsibilities increase. The SAFTSE model will address these responsibilities and in what manner the assigned person(s) can manage theses conditions.

These new models do not signify a demise of the tent rental business because there are many more safe days than bad days. If there was a threat of a tent related hazard every week, there would not be a tent rental business.

What SAFTSE is endorsing is turning a potential wrong into a safe right.

SAFTSE is, in the beginning, stages of forming a model evacuation plan committee consisting of tent rental companies and Fire Marshals. Our group has commitments from two Fire Marshals and two tent rental companies to help develop these plans. We are looking for additional members, so please contact us if you are interested in participating in our project.

We need your support by becoming a member of SAFTSE we will generate the necessary funding to produce a Common Body of Knowledge. What is a common body of knowledge? The CBK areas are designed to provide documentation for evacuation plans, support for tent permits, and development of standards and references.


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