Last Updated: Wednesday, February 01, 2017

Disaster In Indiana: Time To Rethink "Rain Or Shine" Mentality? (And, Who's Minding The Stage?)
Updated: Sunday, August 14, 2011

The Saturday Indiana State Fair stage collapse tragedy in Indianapolis, Indiana, that claimed five lives so far and injured scores of fairgoers, appears to be one of the worst, if not the worst stage, collapse disaster in U.S. history. That is why, among other reasons, what happened in Indiana must be examined thoroughly. The families and friends of those who died, the injured and traumatized survivors, Hoosiers and present and future fairgoers deserve no less.

Those who want to call the tragedy a freak occurrence or unpreventable must be ignored, least a cover-up result. Especially, since the Indiana stage collapse follows another weather-related stage collapse on July 17, at the Bluesfest in Ottawa, Canada. The Crowdsafe® Database can point to other similiar incidents, as well.

At the moment, there are more questions than answers about what happened in Indiana. But, that is both the good news and bad news. Questions tend to lead to answers. Answers can lead to solutions.

One thing should be clear to most people, a new and more effective approach to warning outdoor crowds of impending severe weather developments should be developed in Indiana, Ottawa and elsewhere. The days of “rain or shine” events that encourage outdoor crowds to tough-it-out, even at the risk of their own safety, should be brought to an end. Promoters and venue operators should be required to have not only a workable emergency plan, but a trained staff capable of implementing it in a timely manner. And for those promoters and venue operators who follow a policy of waiting until the last minute to warn their guests of danger---often due to a fear of financial loss---should no longer be allowed to operate.

At the same time, structural safety inspectors around the country and in other countries as well, should double their vigilance when temporary structures in public places are erected in their communities.

Crowd Management Strategies has a current list of questions as do other independent parties. Our questions are these:

1. Who designed the stage?

2. Who approved the stage’s construction?

3. What were the qualifications of those who built the stage?

4. What was the calculated windloads for the stage?

5. When was the structural integrity of the stage last examined prior to Saturday?

6. How was the stage to be operated to maintain structural integrity during high winds?

7. Was the stage crew that erected the stage present that evening to address emergencies that might arise?

8. Why does it appear to have taken approximately 30 minutes for authorities to begin to inform the concertgoers they should evacuate the area after extreme weather was anticipated to hit the fairgrounds?

9. What was the procedure in place for authorizing an emergency evacuation from the seating area in front of the stage?

10. What was the Indiana State Fair’s written emergency plan response to high winds during a populated concert event?

11. How many crowd managers or security guards and law enforcement officers were available to assist in emergency egress of the crowd?

12. Were Indiana State Fair staff and crowd managers or security contractors trained in crowd management?

13. Were Indiana State Fair staff and crowd managers or security contractors versed in emergency evacuation procedures?

14. What percent of the people in the crowd near the stage were aware they should evacuate? And, if these concertgoers did receive an intelligible warning, how far in advance of disaster were they notified?

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