Hazardous Situation: Why Evacuate?

Failure to evacuate a tent in an emergency can result in serious injuries or even fatalities. By their very nature, tents are temporary structures that are not designed to withstand extreme weather conditions or provide protection in emergency situations. Tents should be evacuated when any of the following hazards exists:

The tent could collapse and injure occupants; the tent cannot protect occupants from flying debris.

The tent cannot protect occupants from excessive heat, flames or flying debris.

Lightning poses a risk of electrocution, electric shock or fire.

Excessive weight could cause the tent to collapse and injure occupants.

Saturation of ground with water may compromise securement. The tent could collapse and injure occupants.

Saturation of ground with water may compromise securement. The tent could collapse and injure occupants.

Excessive weight could cause the tent to collapse and injure occupants.

Excessive weight could cause the tent to collapse and injure occupants.

Atmospheric conditions may not be suitable for occupants.

Ground conditions may not be suitable for occupants and may compromise the tent’s securement. This is not an all-inclusive list.

Who Is in Charge of a Tent Safety and Evacuation Plan?

It is the renter’s responsibility to ensure guests’ safety. One of the ways to do this is to develop an emergency evacuation plan for their event. In developing emergency evacuation plans, rental customers should determine any emergency conditions that could arise during their events.

Tips for Tent Safety and Evacuation Planning

Tents are not suitable as shelters in severe weather. They are temporary structures that can protect from moderate weather, but they are not designed to serve as shelters in severe conditions. Also, they do not meet the requirements of permanent buildings for protecting occupants. Having a tent safety and evacuation plan in place helps to ensure the safety and well-being of event attendees during emergencies.

  • Designate a point person

Emergencies can develop with little or no warning. In an emergency, there is a lot of confusion and the situation can become chaotic. Having someone on-site designated as an “authority figure” ensures that protective steps are taken immediately. For a wedding: A family member, member of the wedding party, etc. For a corporate event: An event planner, company representative, etc. For a public event: A show manager, representative of the venue, the fire chief, etc.

  • Review the list of emergency conditions that trigger an evacuation

Tents are not safe shelters in emergency situations. Refer to the hazards and risks associated with temporary structures above.

  • You need an emergency evacuation location

Tents will need to be evacuated during emergencies. Having a predetermined evacuation location will ensure that it is available if needed and will eliminate delays in getting guests to safety. Evacuation could be to a permanent building, vehicles, an open area away from the tent, or to locations recommended by the National Weather Service or Emergency Alert System. Of utmost importance is that the tent should never be used as a shelter in an emergency.

  • Determine how guests will get to the evacuation location

This includes the route to take and the mode of transportation (travel by foot or car). Consider preparing a sketch of the event site.

  • Plan ahead for backup methods of communication

In times of emergencies, there may be no electrical power and cellphone signals may be interrupted. To ensure there is a way to communicate with appropriate emergency service personnel and others, customers should think about a communication contingency plan.

  • Make a preliminary announcement regarding a possible evacuation

Communication during large or public events is challenging even without an emergency. Therefore, it may be prudent to prepare the attendees before an emergency to facilitate an orderly and safe evacuation if the need arises. Also, if forecasts indicate a possible need to evacuate, the announcement will prepare occupants and accelerate the evacuation. During the event announcement, based on weather forecasts and other circumstances, you may wish to educate participants on how to identify the point person(s), the location of exits, and the emergency evacuation location.

  • Monitor the weather

Weather conditions can change quickly, becoming dangerous in a short time. It is best to have a designated person monitor the weather so that the point person can alert guests of an impending emergency and initiate an evacuation, if necessary before an accident occurs.

  • Monitor the tent structure after installation

The rental company may not have a representative on site after installation is complete. Various conditions (e.g., rain, vehicles hitting poles, etc.) may alter the installation, which, in turn, affects the tent’s stability.

  • Contact the rental company before returning to the tent

When the emergency is over, can you go back to the tent? Contact us before returning to the tent. The tent’s stability may have been compromised during the emergency situation and the rental company can advise you of the proper next steps. Continue to monitor the weather and be alert for other emergencies during the event.

  • Implement your evacuation plan for any of the following conditions:

  1. A severe weather alert is posted by the National Weather Service
  2. Dark clouds are approaching. Lightning strikes within one mile (less than a five-second count between lightning and thunder)
  3. Hail or sleet falls
  4. Twigs break from trees or large trees sway
  5. Any of the tent anchoring devices fail or the tent begins to move (e.g., tent poles wobble, ropes snap, tent top rips or tears, etc.)
  6. Rain falls so hard it runs off tent walls in sheets
  7. Water is running through the tent or surrounding area
  8. Snow or ice is accumulating
  9. An explosion, excessive heat, smoke, or fire is in the vicinity of the event.
  10. There is ground movement of any kind.

Other conditions exist as previously determined in developing your emergency plan.

  • Call for help after an evacuation

Even if the tent appears intact, it may not be safe to return. If stakes or augers have pulled out of the ground, tent weights have moved, or there are loose poles, ropes, or straps, contact the rental company so that the tent may be re-secured before resuming the event. Again – this is just a general guideline with passages from the American Rental Association Statement of Best Practices of Emergency Evacuation Planning for Tented Events -2013