Strong storms test fair officials

Indianapolis

The Indiana State Fair put its revamped emergency plan to the test for the first time, Saturday afternoon, as a storm rolled into the fairgrounds.

The plan was put in place after the stage collapsed during a Sugarland concert last summer and killed seven people.

"The sky was very dark," said Debbie Smith, who was working at a food tent Saturday. "Then I saw a couple bolts of lightning."

Even before anyone saw the storm, State Fair officials were taking action.
 
"It's a 24 hour monitoring system and on site meteorologists that we have this year," said State Fair spokesman Andy Klotz. "They were already monitoring some weather."

Klotz said the crew monitoring the storm sent out text alerts to hundreds of State Fair workers and vendors.

"Internally our first message came in at 11:45 (a.m)," said Klotz.

Then an evacuation order was called out on the P.A system five different times.

"They just said they were evacuating the tents to a safe place," said Smith.

Fairgoers were told to head indoors and those who didn't immediately heed the warning got a personal order from State Police, fair employees, and even vendors.

"The girl at the cash register just stood up and yelled out 'We have to evacuate the tent,'" said Hollis Smith, also working at a food tent.

Once inside, officials continued communicating safety precautions, telling people to go to the middle of the building and get away from the doors.

About 15 to 20 minutes later, the storm passed, and fairgoers said so did the new safety plan.

"I thought they did a good job," said Debbie Smith.
 
Klotz said there weren't any serious issues with the execution of the plan, Saturday, however officials hope to perfect it with practice.

"By all intents and purposes we think this was an extremely successful first test of the new policies and procedures that are in place," said Klotz.

 

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