Coppell, TX – Horrific tornadoes, floods and raging wildfires have dominated weather news throughout the U.S. this year, affecting numerous events. And it’s not so long ago that hurricanes and snowstorms wreaked havoc on other conventions and trade shows. With that in mind, the International Association of Venue Managers (IAVM) this week hosted a webinar on weather-related event cancellation with about 150 industry professionals in attendance.
The theme: how to prepare, prevent, respond and recover from severe weather incidents that lead to postponed or cancelled events through clear contract language, adequate weather information and risk assessment.
“The weather will arrive first if you don’t know how to deal with legal and contractual issues surrounding event cancellation,” said Harold Hansen, director of life safety for the IAVM.
Guest presenters were Steven Adelman of Adelman Law Group LLC and Kevin Mattingly of venue emergency management firm Paratus LLC and deputy director of the Phoenix Convention Center.
Adelman said preparation begins with clear contractual language—and it doesn’t have to be boilerplate. “You can write your own,” he said, as long as the parties agree on the language and make sure that language is legal in that location. Adelman said the agreement should include who will make the decision to cancel, when it should be made, and—if the event is cancelled—who is going to pay for it. “You don’t need different plans for different emergencies,” he said. “You need one plan about how to communicate during an emergency.”
Another important consideration: the trigger point for cancelling. “Anticipating reasonably foreseeable events for your venue is a key phrase,” Adelman said. Using the history of weather incidents in your area is one predictor of what could happen again, but Adelman and Mattingly advised using private weather consultants to watch for localized threats. “The National Weather Service isn’t set up to drill down to neighborhoods (with their warnings),” Mattingly said.
Cancellation itself is a risk-management decision that should be shared by the venue and organizer. Both need to make certain that all appropriate parties—including security staff for performers or speakers–are aware of the pending action. And those with cancellation insurance might be in the best position after the fact,” Adelman said. “Luck favors those who are prepared,” he said.
IAVM will host two programs—Academy for Venue Safety and Security and Severe Weather Planning and Preparation for Public Venues–next February. A Severe Weather Planning Guide also is available to members. Information about these may be found at www.iavm.org.