2011. Tragedy occurs when a storm collapses the Indiana State Fair stage of super country group Sugarland – killing 5 fans and seriously injuring numerous others. It was reported that miraculously the band’s Tour Manager at the last minute, on gut instinct, hadn’t let his band go out on stage – and moments later the storm twisted the metal into fatal falling debris. Linkin Park’s Production Manager Jim Digby had experienced tragedy on stage once before early in his career, and the Sugarland fatalities combined with the birth of his own son motivated his heartbreak – into action.
With great empathy Jim states, “I’m guilty of playing amateur meteorologist on the road and we all know now that that’s a BAD best practice – meteorology is NOT an amateur sport. Many of us, in that leadership role have have at one time or another used unsophisticated methods to determine the timing and severity of a weather threat – holding a pen up to a computer screen attempting to measure the distance and time of the fast approaching red blob saying ‘Yep that’s going to be here in about 30 minutes, Now…God forbid you should find yourself in court attempting to defend your decisions and the lawyer asks ‘Where did you get your Meteorology Degree?’ You’re left to say, ‘Umm….well I don’t have one.’ Well…Goodbye!”
Thankfully we are in a much more informed place thanks to technological advances and increased resolution of weather monitoring equipment. Professional meteorologists are now capable of providing predictive, accurate forecasting with as much as two hours lead time for approaching weather events bearing down on geo specific locations. Being prepared for severe weather is what Plan!t Now is all about, and it now also defines the cornerstone of being for Jim, and for one of the biggest rock and roll acts in the world, mega-band – Linkin Park. Being prepared anywhere in the world at anytime for any challenge- natural or man-made – is essential not only to keeping such a massive machine running – but more importantly to making sure that everyone goes home safely.
And so motivated by the great tragedy in Indianapolis, Jim and many other forward thinking professionals in the live event space have created the Event Safety Alliance (ESA), a non-profit group dedicated to memorializing industry best practices that could help the folks on the ground producing events be better trained and better prepared.
The Event Safety Alliance has pulled together data, safety standards and governmental related codes from around the globe, and has just released the draft version of a 300-page document called the Event Safety Guide. The US is lagging behind many international communities when it comes to event safety and many feel it’s time to create the paradigm shift from within the industry, for US bands and performances.
As much as there are concerns, there is significant and relevant industry consensus for the work, all who have taken the time to become aware of the mission of the ESA have pledged complete support. “The Event Safety Alliance has several motivations. First – everyone must make it home – in one piece from an entertainment event. Second, as an industry we need to demonstrate that we are both capable of policing ourselves and of building the required relationships with those in public office who are already responsible for the safety of the public.”
One early and extremely relevant improvement spawned by the Event Safety Alliance – was an instantly deployable technology developed with the help of the forward thinking group at Weather Decision Technologies (WDT). “I discovered WDT at a Severe Weather Preparedness training in Norman, Oklahoma last year in an attempt to find a private firm capable of providing event specific forecasting models that put the job of weather monitoring into the hands of the professionals.” WDT is already in the business of monitor weather threats for billions of dollars of unrelated industries. With the permission of extremely safety minded artist Linkin Park, Jim moved forward with their full authority to develop and test drive these systems on their behalf.
Now Jim or any event producer can have at their fingertips these very accurate and specific tools and humans monitoring their events. A degreed meteorologist, live from the hub of US weather data central, watching over us at all times, providing to the minute accuracy of any number of climatological concerns. “The EXPERTS are now watching our weather, they are aware of our unique concerns and are capable of giving us the kind of lead times necessary to protect human life”, says Jim. Jim and the Event Safety Alliance have also become supporters of the work of Plan!t Now and the Young Meteorologist Program. Quoting Jim, “Educating young minds at an early stage, raising awareness of an individuals responsibility for the planet and the effects of climate change on mother earth is a crucial step in finding solutions that may someday save our planet.”