To say that the weather in the UK is unpredictable would be an understatement! So what should you do if it rains cats and dogs? Our wet weather plan can help! Agree a date (based on the latest weather reports) on which a decision will be taken. Get the latest weather information from the Met Office on Twitter. If your event cannot be held outdoors, do you have an alternative indoor venue or will the event have to be cancelled?
Go ahead, postpone or cancel?
The main things to consider when rain is forecast are do you have enough room indoors for the main money-making stalls and will people come along? If attendance is likely to be down and your most profitable stalls are the BBQ and bouncy castle, can you postpone your event? If you promote an alternative date early enough, then hopefully parents will have kept it free (to both attend and volunteer). If you have no alternative but to cancel, make sure that anything you buy is purchased on a sale or return basis. Get non-perishable prizes for stalls that are not season specific, allowing them to be stored and used for future events.
Assuming you decide to go ahead, consider whether stalls could be moved onto hard standing such as a playground (to mitigate against mud and slip hazards), or will everything need to be moved indoors? If we only have drizzle and there are no high winds, waterproof gazebos should provide sufficient protection from the worst of the weather. These will need to be secured in place. Bear in mind potential hazards caused by any electrical devices that are exposed to the elements.
There will undoubtedly be some restrictions on moving your entire event indoors, i.e. coconut shies cannot be staked; welly wanging needs sufficient space; limited numbers in case of overcrowding. Make sure school staff, including caretakers are on board with plans to use the school. Divide your list of stalls/attractions into those that will go ahead in fine weather and those that can be moved indoors if it rains. If using classrooms, the PTA will need to put everything back as it was. A great tip is to take photographs of each room, print these out and stick them on the door. Chances are a different team will be clearing up to the one that set up so any attempt to put classrooms back to their original state will be much appreciated by the school!
Rain and/or high winds will present a problem for bouncy castles, climbing walls and similar attractions. If you are booking something like this from an external supplier, check what alternative solutions they can offer in the event of inclement weather. Some may allow you to postpone your booking to an alternative date, others may be able to provide a different attraction more suited to indoor use (space allowing). Check cancellation policies.
When selling space to stallholders (or arranging for external performers to attend), make your wet weather policy clear in agreement documents. If you plan to go ahead outdoors whatever the weather, then use wording along the lines of, 'The fair goes ahead no matter what the weather, so come prepared with rain or sun protection. There will be no refunds made in the event of inclement weather.' Give external suppliers a contact number for enquiries and let them know when a decision will be made, i.e. by 5pm two days prior to the event.
Risk assessment and site plans
Bear in mind that any decision to move your fair from the school field will need to be taken with enough time to carry out a risk assessment. You may be able to speed up this process by having two site plans prepared. This should include:
- routes in and out
- performance arena
- first aid and lost children points
- communication between marshals
As your Christmas fair is likely to be held indoors, much of your risk assessment for an indoor event can hopefully be based on existing documentation.
Tips from PTAs
Melanie Joslin: 'We have similar problem this year, going all out and having a much bigger fair. We are keeping the main hall clear just in case we have to bring some games inside - the rest will have to suffer outside! But it's not going to rain!'
James Crockford: 'We have a few external suppliers that won't come if it rains - bouncy castle and ice-cream van, etc). However, we don't pay if they don't come. The rest of the stuff we fit into the hall and the classrooms.'
Kirsty Warwick: 'We hold our fair in a local park so just borrow lots of gazebos. A couple of years ago it rained but people still stuck around to see the childrens' performances - takings are down on inflatables as we can't run them but everything else carries on.'
Sally Sommerville: 'Pray and hope there is no rain! We have very limited wet weather options due to space so just put up gazebos over the stalls and keep our fingers crossed!'
Claire Sands: 'We have cancelled a couple of times due to weather as our biggest money makers are the BBQ and bouncy castle. Both times the right call was made as weather was appalling! We always have a back up date.'
Ruth Needham: 'We make two plans, one for indoors and one for outdoors, it does make life a lot more complicated mind. Last year it was half in and half out, as it was too windy for some stalls outside.'
Lara Bradford: 'We came very close to cancelling on the morning of our fair last year. But we stuck it out through rain and gale force winds(!) and the sun came out for the last hour. Luckily the main attraction - a circus - was indoors but those of us under marquees nearly got blown away!'
Susan Wilding: 'We have been lucky so far and have our fingers crossed for this year. We have fairground rides coming so it's up to them whether they make the journey if weather is bad as they only pay us a commission. Biggest concern though is whether or not people will bother to come out in the rain. I doubt I would if I am honest and if I wasn't on the PA. It might make sense to cancel and reschedule as all the hard work could be for nothing if hardly anyone turns up.'
Allie Evans: 'We have always created a downsized floor plan in previous years but our new head encouraged us to use classrooms at Christmas so we are hoping the same will apply for a wet summer fair.'
Julie Caines: 'I think even if it is raining, something should go ahead. We have had to have ours indoors a couple of times and although it's a bit disappointing we used some of the classrooms as well as the hall. The Governors were outside under an umbrella on the BBQ! We had a bouncy castle with a rain cover just outside too but it depends how heavy the rain is. I know a school that had a bouncy castle in one of their classrooms! So I would not cancel, just scale down and work with what you have.'
- We'd love to hear what plans you put in place, so please drop us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.