Severe Weather Tent Safety
The #1 concern during any bad weather is safety. Evacuate the tent site during any bad weather.
The tent installer or end user is responsible for anticipating and monitoring weather conditions for the duration of an installation. As part of the initial site checks, evacuation paths or emergency procedures should be conveyed to all employees. Failure to evacuate the tent site in severe weather can result in serious injuries or fatalities.
Impacts of Inclement Weather on a Tent
Rainwater can collect on the tent fabric and cause 'ponding' or 'water pocketing' under certain weather conditions, especially if the tent is not tensioned correctly. The additional weight from the water will cause the tent to sag. The weight can destroy the tent fabric and cause the poles, pole plates, and base plates to sink into the soil. In addition, highly saturated soil will cause the stakes to lose their holding power. Losing tension from the stakes and added weight on the tent top will cause poles to shift, bend, or break, making the structure an extreme safety hazard.
Wind can cause the tension of the tent to change by loosening ratchet assemblies and stakes, or causing the poles to shift or sink through constant buffeting and vibrations. It is very important to do routine maintenance checks and maintain proper tension on the tent top at all times, especially if harsh weather conditions are expected.
If lightning is seen or thunder is heard, immediately evacuate the tent until the chance of a lightning strike is no longer present. Poles and frames are excellent conductors and and provide the grounding that lightning requires.
Tents, canopies, structures, and shelters are not designed to carry any type of snow loading. These products should not be used if snow of any kind is present or expected, and must be evacuated immediately in the event of unanticipated snow loading.
Preparing a Tent for Severe Weather
Tents are temporary structures that have various degrees of resistance to severe weather conditions, depending on the style of tent. It is always important to have evacuation plans in place for severe weather conditions to first protect people at an event and secondly to protect your investment in the shelter. In planning for severe weather, CELINA recommends that the tent be taken down or at the very least have the fabric dropped to the ground to reduce wind resistance. If the tent must remain up, there are a few things that can be done to prepare for winds and heavy rain.
Tension the Tent:
It is important that the stakes are secure and the ratchet assemblies or ropes and tent top fabric are as tight as possible. Tension each staking point and add additional stakes and stake plates at corner locations, lace lines, and secondary poles. Be aware that significant rainfall can saturate the soil and cause stakes to loosen and possibly fail when combined with heavy wind.
Remove the Sidewalls:
Sidewalls can be removed from the tent to reduce surface area and wind load pressures. A tent without sidewalls will allow wind to pass underneath the tent and decrease the chances of side poles being knocked out.
Add Anti-Sink Pole Plates:
For pole tents, set all poles on anti-sink plates (side poles on 6" x 6" plates and center poles on 12" x 12" plates). Larger tents may require several pole plates stacked on one another at main stress points, such as the center, corner, and lace line pole locations. Anti-sink plates will increase the ground surface stability as wind forces are transferred onto the poles; this keeps poles from sinking into the ground, making impressions in asphalt, or sliding on concrete.