We are in the midst of summer event season with some of the largest music festivals taking place right now, including The Governors Ball and Bonnaroo , along with hundreds more to take place across the U.S. this summer. Staying comfortable and safe are key to the event experience and the warmer than average summer forecast is on the minds of event organizers and attendees alike. While public safety is job number one for event organizers, it’s critical to adapt operations and offerings to adjust for the extreme heat for the event’s profitability too. Using weather data as part of the planning process can help provide insights into the decision-making process and create an event experience that benefits everyone, despite extreme temperatures.
The warmer than average summer forecast is already starting to become reality across portions of the U.S and will be expanding to other areas in the coming weeks. Right now, in mid-June, we are already we are seeing intense summer heat happening across much of the Southwest and Western regions of the country, with temperatures anticipated to get above 100 degrees and likely breaking many high temperature records as it spreads east.
While the physical dangers of extreme heat are clear — there are more than 150 heat-related deaths every year in the U.S. — there is also an economic cost of extreme heat. A recent study estimates that in the U.S. alone, annual economic losses related to worker productivity attributed to heat exceed $100 billion. The economic estimate doesn’t include the impact of extreme heat on tourism, infrastructure, and discretionary spending at events, making the potential loss even higher.
While safety fundamentals, such as tools and processes, have been formalized in the past 10 years by the Event Safety Alliance, organizers are realizing that weather data may help operationally too. With the global event industry expected to grow by nearly 15% in the next five years, there are a lot of opportunities for event planners around the world. This also means a significant increase in the number of people attending events and a critical need for weather response planning and a strong understanding of the broader implications of the weather. It is no longer sufficient to just look at the weather forecast. The science has evolved to a point that when combined with subject matter expertise, weather insights can communicate potential risks and opportunities for a business on an operational level. Of course, public safety is the foundational risk when we talk about weather and outdoor events, but what else is there? Other operations at risk from the weather may include scheduling, ticket sales, parking costs, event staff size, concessions, energy costs, security, event-location maintenance, stages, A/V equipment, and the list could go on and on.
With festivals being such an important local, economic driver, these decisions can have major impact. Think about some of the biggest events, like Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival, where in 2021, the three-day concert brought around $600 million and hundreds of jobs to the local economy with its half a million attendees. While the temperatures at this annual event are typically warm, they are projected to get even warmer in coming years. A recent study finds that the probability of exposure to extreme heat during the Coachella music festival could increase by up to six-fold by 2100, so these temperatures will be a major consideration for future events.
Music festivals like Coachella are usually building the event from scratch every year at each location, so there’s opportunity to make operational changes to best combat extreme heat. With help from a risk communicator, organizers can increase the necessary plans for public safety that are appropriate for the temperatures, but also influence operational decisions based on real-time weather data to ensure the event is profitable and a good experience for attendees.
For example, the Perth Festival in Australia has dealt with extreme temperatures around its events and makes operational chances for the best experience. The organization’s Five Short Blasts event was scheduled to take place at sunrise and sunset. It was billed as an event for the beauty of the light, but the strategy behind that timing choice clearly addressed the issues of midday heat and sharp sun angle. The festival continues to have frequent night-time only events to avoid the heat of the day.
As the propensity for more frequent and extreme temperatures continue, every event organizer across the country must establish a plan for managing public safety during these heat waves, but also need to consider the implications of the extreme heat on the event’s profitability. Using weather insights as part of the operational planning process contributes to a safe, enjoyable experience for attendees that makes financial sense for the organizers.