State to pass tougher structure regulations for tents, stages

Tougher regulations will affect large stages down to smaller tents.

Indiana is ready to issue new, tougher, wide-ranging regulations aimed at keeping fans safe at all kinds of outdoor events.

State officials are trying to prevent another tragedy like the one at the State Fair last summer. But there's a concern the new regulations may go too far.

Special events of all sizes will be affected by the new rules. They range from small community festivals and fairs, outdoor concerts and other performances, the Indiana State Fair and Mini Marathon. Any events with tents, stages, or other temporary structures will have to comply with what are expected to be rigid building, fire, and safety standards.

"Please use common sense," is the plea from Senator Tim Lanane (D-Anderson).

Lanane wrote the legislation prompting new regulations, which he and others are concerned may be so demanding, small events may not be able to afford or implement them and be forced to cancel. Lanane hopes Indiana's Fire & Building Safety Commission scales the new requirements according the size of the event.

"You don't need the exact same standards for the stages and other structures at the State Fairgrounds as you do at county fairs and your local town festival," he said.

Seven people were killed and dozens of other concert fans were injured when the State Fair's concert stage rigging collapsed into the crowd August 13. The tragedy prompted the call for more stringent safety standards and inspections.

Companies building tents, stages and other temporary structures say they are already following tougher state safety guidelines.

"It's all boils down to the safety for our guests and people who do the special events with us," said Mike Wiggins of A Classic Party Rental, who rents and erects a variety of stages and tents.

The guidelines, Wiggins says, vary with their size and can require additional exits, fire extinguishers, a $250 permit and inspections.

"We schedule an on-site inspection after the tent is installed and they go through and make sure we are following the guidelines. It's been a pretty simple process," Wiggins said.

The new safety regulations go beyond structures and require organizers have a safety plan intended to get people out of the way of severe weather or other dangers. The commission is expected to approve the new standards Wednesday morning. If approved, they take effect immediately.