It Can Happen Here

Event officials and promoters of outdoor concerts nationwide have been paying close attention to reports from Indianapolis in the wake of 2011’s deadliest stage accident to date. The collapse is at least the fourth of its kind in North America during a summer of freakish weather.

As news of five fatalities at the Indiana State Fair Aug. 13 spread, local media descended upon venue operators and promoters of big outdoor events of all stripes, asking about their own safety precautions and inspection procedures.

Some of the responses were remarkably blasé, with representatives all but saying, “It can’t happen here,” citing the stellar records of staging vendors, production offices supplied with National Weather Service radar information and computers to track it with, and the efficacy of their own inspections.

Others recognize that anything’s possible, and do what they can to mitigate safety concerns including evacuating venues when rooftop instruments record winds reaching 40 mph, even if their stages are rated for gusts up to 70 mph.

Casey Jarman, program director of the Salt Lake City Arts Council, was remarkably – and atypically – honest when asked by the Deseret News if a catastrophic accident could happen in her town. “It can, of course,” she replied, adding that she has great confidence in her crews and vendors.

And others did more than just talk about their safety policies or wait for state officials to order them to be evaluated in the days after the tragedy in Indiana.

Preseason NFL football is under way, and the Indianapolis Colts quickly sent an email to season ticketholders outlining the evacuation instructions, including a video, at the city’s Lucas Oil Stadium.

And Wyoming State Fair organizers conducted a mock evacuation of the grandstands during the meeting for contestants in the state rodeo finals. The drill involved all of the fair’s full-time and some of its part-time workers.

WSF director James Goodrich said the run-through helped identify structures that could serve as evacuation shelters in emergencies at the Douglas, Wyo., facility.