Weather doesn’t wait for our plans. From lightning strikes disrupting a golf tournament to extreme heat impacting a football practice, unpredictable weather conditions can cause more than just inconvenience; they can pose serious safety risks. That’s where inclement weather policies come in.
The need for inclement weather policies
Weather-related incidents can come with serious safety risks, on top of disrupting plans and events. So when extreme weather strikes, one of the best things you can do is have an effective inclement weather policy.
These policies not only help avoid those safety risks, but also help manage disruptions to events.
- For schools, a heat wave can put student athletes at serious risk for heat injuries, while also forcing adjustments like practice lengths and frequency of water breaks.
- For golf courses and course managers, lightning storms can delay tee times, disrupt tournaments, and put golfers on tree-lined fairways at risk.
- For outdoor event organizers, strong winds and heavy rain can put crowds in wide-open spaces at risk.
But in these events, the risks to people and infrastructure can be prevented with effective inclement weather policies and procedures.
Main weather events to consider
A light drizzle of rain or slight breeze aren’t exactly the types of weather to be concerned about. When it comes to inclement weather, we typically want to address the following types in a severe weather policy:
Lightning is one of the primary threats to outdoor events and activities. Quick guidelines and best practices include:
- “When thunder roars, go indoors” – You may not see lightning, but if you can hear a thunderstorm that means you’re still within striking distance of lightning. At that point, take shelter indoors and wait until 30 minutes after the last clap of thunder.
- Utilize real-time lightning detection and monitoring systems, such as those offered by Perry Weather, for more precise, location-specific alerts.
Learn more about lightning policies and how to create them.
Sun-soaked days might seem ideal for outdoor events, but they come with dangers of heat strokes and dehydration. Some measures include:
- Setting up hydration stations and taking water breaks.
- Offering shaded areas for rest.
- Monitoring wet bulb globe temperature (WBGT) to ensure the safety of participants and attendees. Remember that policies should be tailored to the region you’re in, since different regions and “zones” of the US have their own WBGT thresholds and guidelines.
A high school in Lubbock, Texas, a Class 2 WBGT zone, should cancel football practice if WBGT reaches 89.8 degrees fahrenheit.
But a high school in Dallas, Texas, a Class 3 WBGT zone, should cancel practice if WBGT reaches 92 degrees fahrenheit.
Each WBGT class has different thresholds and guidelines for things like outdoor practice length, frequency of breaks, and intensity of practices/exercise. Your policy will need to account for these region and class-specific guidelines. You can take a look at Perry Weather’s example WBGT policy to get an idea of what you’ll need to include.
- Use a WBGT and heat stress monitoring solution. Perry Weather offers done-for-you WBGT and heat stress monitoring that removes guesswork and makes decision-making simple.
Learn more about wet bulb globe temperature.
Air quality often slips under the radar when discussing weather policies, yet it’s paramount, especially for those with respiratory conditions. Here’s what to consider:
- Potential threats like smog, pollen, or wildfire smoke, which can be especially harmful to children, elderly attendees, and those with existing health issues.
- Use air quality monitoring systems that offer real-time updates. With tools like Perry Weather’s platform, you can get immediate alerts when air quality deteriorates.
Severe cold weather events
Bracing the cold is more than bundling up in layers.
- Risks of frostbite and hypothermia are real, especially in extreme cold snaps.
- Decision thresholds should be established, determining when it’s too cold for an outdoor activity.
Rain can be more than a dampener for outdoor events; it can be a gamechanger, especially for specific terrains:
- Grass fields and golf courses can become slippery and dangerous.
- Establish rainfall thresholds. For instance, rainfall over a certain amount can trigger a policy breach, prompting evacuations or postponements.
A gusty day brings its challenges:
- Extreme wind speeds can disrupt outdoor events, from toppling equipment to making conditions unsafe for participants.
- Like with other weather events, establish wind speed thresholds. Once breached, immediate action should be taken to ensure safety.
Key components of an effective inclement weather policy
For a weather policy to be effective, it must be comprehensive. Here are the components to consider:
Definition and clarity
An ambiguous policy is a recipe for disaster. Ensure that ‘inclement weather’ is clearly defined, taking into account locality-specific classifications. For instance, what’s considered severe heat in Alaska could be considered a warm day in Arizona.
Clearly outline who holds the responsibility of deciding if an event should be postponed or canceled, and based on what criteria.
How is it decided
Incorporate reliable forecasting and detection methodologies. Perry Weather, for instance, provides real-time monitoring and alerts tailored for specific localities and settings.
Efficient communication is crucial. Whether it’s through PA systems, text alerts, or mobile apps, ensure that your stakeholders are informed promptly.
Your policy should clearly outline the next steps once inclement weather is detected. Whether it’s evacuating a field, pausing an event, or moving indoors, the steps should be clearly documented and widely understood.
Last but not least, make sure your policy is compliant with state and local rules, as well as any sports association guidelines.
Tailoring policies for different venues and events
Every venue and event type has unique challenges and considerations when it comes to weather. Let’s explore how to adapt your policy to each setting:
Schools and universities
Educational institutions often house a diverse group, from young children to adults, and their safety is paramount:
- Consider the variety of outdoor activities: recess, sports, outdoor labs, and campus events. Each has different vulnerabilities.
- Regular drills for students and staff can ensure everyone knows the protocols.
- Perry Weather’s alert system can be a boon for large campuses, ensuring timely notifications even in sprawling settings.
The vast openness of a golf course brings unique weather challenges:
- Lightning can be a significant threat. Setting up alert systems like Perry Weather’s can provide immediate warnings, allowing golfers enough time to seek shelter.
- Rain can transform the landscape, making greens slippery and potentially unsafe.
- Regularly monitor the course’s condition and adapt play schedules accordingly.
From music festivals to local fairs, outdoor events need a comprehensive weather strategy:
- Attendee experience is crucial, but so is their safety. For instance, strong winds can pose a risk if there are temporary structures.
- Have clear evacuation or pause plans in place and communicate them to attendees.
- Tools like Perry Weather’s offerings can assist in monitoring conditions in real-time, ensuring event organizers can make informed decisions quickly.
Inclement weather policy best practices and tips
Creating a weather policy is a good start, but ensuring it’s effective is where the challenge lies. Here’s how to make your policy foolproof:
- Regularly Review and Update: Just as weather patterns evolve, your policy should too. Review it annually or after major weather events to identify potential gaps.
- Training: Regularly train staff, volunteers, or any relevant personnel on the policy. Familiarity can speed up response times during critical moments.
- Stakeholder Feedback: Regularly solicit feedback from those affected by the policy, whether it’s students, athletes, or event attendees. They can offer valuable insights on potential improvements.
Reducing liability and ensuring duty of care
Ensuring the safety of those under your care is not only a moral obligation but also a legal one:
- Understand the Legal Landscape: Ignorance isn’t a defense. Know the local and state regulations related to weather safety for your venue or event type.
- Documentation: Maintain records of all weather-related decisions. Tools like Perry Weather can store historical weather data, which can be invaluable if you need to justify a decision.
- Expert Consultation: Consider consulting with experts when drafting or revising your policy. Perry Weather offers policy consultation as part of its services, ensuring your guidelines are both comprehensive and compliant.
Take action: solutions for crafting an effective response to severe weather events
Weather is unpredictable, but our response to it doesn’t have to be. With a well-crafted inclement weather policy, you can ensure the safety of everyone involved, from students to athletes to event attendees.
Regularly review your protocols, invest in real-time monitoring tools like Perry Weather (sign up for a free two-week trial for first-hand experience), and always prioritize safety. In the face of Mother Nature’s unpredictability, preparedness is our strongest asset.