What to Do in Winter Weather

Planning an outdoor event at any time of year poses a risk of carefully laid plans being ruined by extreme weather conditions. Tents can help minimize the effect of moderate weather, but are not designed for use as shelter in severe weather. There are many factors to keep in mind when using a tent in inclement weather. If it looks like the weather may take a turn for the worse on the day of your event, keep these tips in mind to ensure the safety of your guests.

Prior to the Event

Designate someone who will be on site for the entire event to oversee the emergency evacuation plan. The point person will assist in developing the plan, and be responsible during the event for monitoring the weather, determining whether a situation calls for evacuation, and if so, acting decisively and authoritatively to instruct the guests to evacuate.

Work with your point person to determine where guests will go and how they will get there if a tent evacuation becomes necessary. Plan how you will communicate with your guests in an emergency. Depending on the size of the event, consider backup methods of communication for situations in which there is no electrical power, cellphone signals, etc. Beginning at least two hours before the start of the event, the point person should begin monitoring a source of weather information, such as the National Weather Service. If any of the weather emergency conditions listed below are in the forecast, you may need to postpone or cancel the event.

Based on weather forecasts and other circumstances, you may wish to make an announcement to participants regarding the location of exits and the emergency evacuation plan.

Emergency Conditions

Work with the point person to determine the emergency conditions that will trigger an evacuation of the tent structure. Here are some examples of situations where it is unsafe to remain in a tent:

Damaging Winds

The tent could collapse and injure occupants; the tent cannot protect occupants from flying debris. Winds of more than 40 mph are enough to cause issues for exposed tents under the right conditions.

Fire or explosion

The tent cannot protect occupants from excessive heat, flames or flying debris.


Lightning poses a risk of electrocution, electric shock or fire.

Hail or sleet

Excessive weight could cause the tent to collapse and injure occupants.

Excessive rainfall

Saturation of ground with water may compromise stake/ballast options. The tent could collapse and injure occupants.

Snow accumulation/Ice storm

Excessive weight could cause the tent to collapse and injure occupants.


Ground conditions may compromise stake/ballast options. The tent could collapse and injure occupants.

After the Storm

After an evacuation, the tent may not be safe to return to even if it appears intact. If stakes have pulled out of the ground, tent weights have moved or there are loose poles, ropes or straps, contact the rental company so that the tent may be re-secured before resuming the event.

It is imperative to establish a clear and comprehensive emergency plan for your guests. Delegate responsibility to trusted team members and always prioritize safety in the event of bad weather.