The time of year will always dictate what weather variables you are up against as an event planner, so as always the mantra is 'be prepared'. If however the temperatures are beyond the normal averages and you find yourself in heatwave conditions you must adapt to ensure that your attendees safety is not compromised.
Large scale public events such as festivals, sports events and national celebrations are held up and down the country every summer. Most are generally well equipped to plan and deal with such events. However, the effects of excessive heat and sun exposure are sometimes not highlighted enough. To ensure that all guests are prepared to enjoy your event safely, make sure they know what to expect, what to wear, and what to bring.
Pay particular attention to people typically more vulnerable to the heat, including:
Infants & children, older adults, athletes, people with medical conditions, pets and of course your staff - especially outdoor workers.
Individual behaviours often change (for example, people may be reluctant to use toilet facilities due to long queues and so purposely reduce fluid intake). At large events, people get into a good position to see the event and then reduce fluid intake and heat avoidance behaviours so as not to lose their spot. This can lead to heat-related illness, dehydration and/or collapse so make sure you have enough security or volunteers in place to watch out for any situations that may arise.
Keeping it cool
For indoor events your chosen venue will have experienced hot weather before so will be able to advise you on the best plan of action. They may have the option of air conditioning, although in the UK this is not always common, so consider small steps to help. Such as simply opening windows to create some drafts, keeping blinds or curtains closed pre event to prevent the heat from building inside and providing shade in the room if the sunlight is direct.
All outdoor events require shade. Parasols, marquees, gazebos are all great ways to keep an outdoor event open and cool just make sure you have enough of them. If that’s not an option, then try to strategically use the landscape and trees, or set up overhead décor like shade sails between trees that could provide relief from the heat. Provide plenty of resting places and seating in these shady areas.
Take extra measures to place queue points under cover if possible. Long lines in the heat will put people off your event and lead to grumpy overheated guests, ruining their overall experience.
Practical merchandise or gifts, such as branded sunglasses, hats, fans, sunscreen or water bottles can work well in both promoting your brand, or a sponsors, as well as providing comfort for your attendees.
If you are serving food at the event ensure that any uncooked food is kept at the right temperature before cooking. Food borne illness is not something you want guests to experience. There are many guidelines on food safety and hot weather can throw up many issues so it is worth refreshing your knowledge on this.
Be drink aware
Water must be plentiful. Single use plastic has become a huge issue for event organisers, so try to look for alternatives, reusable cups and water taps, jugs, urns, or encourage your attendees to bring their own and refill when they are empty. Heat can double the amount of water consumption so be sure you have enough on site to cope with your audience numbers.
Go easy on the alcohol, it is very dehydrating and when people are hot they tend to drink quicker out of thirst so consequently the effects can be heightened. Try out lower alcohol content products, light beers, wine spritzers, smaller measures on spirits with a higher ratio of soft drink.
Learn the symptoms of heat related illness so you can spot the first signs of someone becoming unwell. The NHS offers guidance on symptoms and treatments of heat exhaustion and heat stroke. Have a dedicated first aider, paramedic, or medical team appropriate to the size of your event.
Ensure that your site team take regular breaks in the shade, keep hydrated and where possible limit strenuous activities to cooler parts of the day. If your project involves a site build you may need to allow an extra day or two to set up and break down, or hire additional staff to help, as the heat can slow down the rate people are capable of working.
If there is a severe weather warning, you may wish to consider moving date, location or even cancel your event. Your guests and staff safety must be prioritised and although it may be disappointing sometimes these things are out of our control.
We hope you find this article of interest and good luck with your summer event planning!