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Electrical safety put in practice

By Connie Lannan

July 19, 2023

Tented events pose their own unique electrical safety issues. Even with safety protocols, electrical issues can arise when you are dealing with tented events. Element, an independent, family-owned event rental business that has been serving the greater New Orleans area for more than two decades, has not only dealt with those issues but also has used them to strengthen its procedures.

“We cater to all aspects of the event rental industry, from backyard parties to large weddings, festivals and movie jobs. Our off-site tented events can include power and lighting, HVAC and catering equipment. In Louisiana, many events require climate control because of the intense heat and humidity,” says Taya Young, senior event specialist. As the third generation of her family in the business, she has seen how electrical-related issues can develop at those events.

Client-related issues: The team at Element has had some clients come in after all the generators, power and electrical distribution are set up and plug in a piece of band equipment or another item. “People think it will be fine, but it can overload some cables to where they overheat and start to smoke because there is so much power getting pulled,” Young says.

To remedy that, Young and her team share with their clients “that we need to know everything they need power for beforehand. We share that if they come behind us and plug something in it will overload the cables and cause problems. We also are very insistent with our clients to have a technician on site to prevent electrical mishaps like this. We also added this strong recommendation to our terms and conditions clause on each invoice that customers sign. While we highly recommend it, we don’t make this mandatory unless it is a large event or an out-of-town event that involves power distribution,” she says.

Equipment/weather issues: An incident involving lighting, draping and wind occurred “when we used simple incandescent Parcan lights for uplighting. The draping was suspended from the tent parameters. A gust of wind came through and blew the draping into those Parcan lights and caught on fire. The good thing is most event fabric is fire-retardant and ours is 100 polyester, so the fire went out within seconds, but it created a scare,” Young says.

The remedy included an inventory change. “We no longer use incandescent lights,” she says. “Now we use regular Freedom par Quad-4 IP LED lights for uplighting and are even more cautious where we put up the lighting.”

Another situation involved tripping a breaker or ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI). “We had a few instances in which electrical distribution was running outside of the tent on the grass and got submerged in water because of an unexpected downpour. We had to come in and redo the whole thing. Now, we are even more careful about where we put our electrical distribution, making sure it is not in low-lying areas and such,” she says.

Employee training: The goal is to prevent these instances from ever happening. That is why Element employees, especially those who deal specifically with power distribution, have monthly meetings to review equipment, issues and protocols.

“When people get too comfortable, that is when the problems come. A continual refresher is helpful. Those on our team who aren’t in this specialized area also are familiarized on the equipment. In the event our technician leaves and a generator issue arises, they will know how to easily assess and problem-solve the situation,” Young says.

When it comes to electrical safety, the team at Element has found it is a continual process of implementing best practices, training, assessing and improving. All these steps help ensure a successful and safe tented event for all involved.