The attorney general's office is sending out checks for a total…
The attorney general's office is sending out checks for a total…
Indiana lawmakers are finalizing their proposal for new rules …
Aug. 13, 2011: High winds cause outdoor stage rigging to …
Visitors poured into the Indiana State Fair on opening day …
Victims of the Indiana State Fair stage-rigging collapse can …
Updated: Friday, 13 Apr 2012, 12:21 AM EDT
Published : Thursday, 12 Apr 2012, 11:50 PM EDT
INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) - As new details continue to emerge about what caused the stage rigging to collapse at the Indiana State Fair last year, many have been left asking: What's changing to make these types of structures safer? I-Team 8 found changes anticipated under a new law aimed at increasing oversight of the structures may not be in place for months to come.
The Indiana State Fair Commission heard reports from two privately contracted companies Thursday. The information from New York-based Thornton Tomasetti concerned the stage itself. The company said the problem began with so-called “jersey barriers” or “K-rails” used to anchor guy wires on the side of the structure. The report says they were the first part of the structure to give out when wind speeds increased.
The first to move was the barrier closest to the stage and the crowd. Thornton Tomasetti says that occurred with a wind gust of just 33 mph. Other barriers also failed, leading up to the maximum wind gust of 59 mph. But the company says the stage was already coming down when winds hit just 43 mph.
The second report by Washington, D.C.-based Witt Associates focused on procedures. It found confusion among those in charge that night, specifically over who was expected to make the call on whether to postpone the concert. Witt’s report also noted that not only were the fair's emergency response plan and procedures lacking, but they were not followed the night of the state fair tragedy.
Each company’s report came with a lengthy list of recommendations for safety improvements, from additional inspections by licensed engineers to new permitting and rigging load requirements. The State Fair Commission was also urged to develop new, comprehensive emergency plans and incident command systems to prevent another tragedy.
Industry experts applauded the reports’ calls for additional safety measures, calling things like buried guy wire anchor cables and quick contingency plans “game changers.”
“Manufacturers outline guy requirements and what the guys have to be attached to. And the one thing that's sometimes misunderstood is if you put 1,500 pounds that you have to attach to to keep it down, there's something called slide off, basically just weight-resisting friction, which is a small percentage of the weight of the structure. And that's what happened. The jersey barriers may have been sufficient for vertical lift, but it wasn't sufficient for the actual side pull of the load. Earth anchors basically are dug into the ground, and they can resist lateral movement as well as vertical uplift,” Pennsylvania-based structural engineer Tim Franklin told 24-Hour News 8 via Skype.
Franklin has been a member of the Event Safety Alliance for the last six years. The group has been pushing for tighter regulation on temporary stages for years.
“This group has brought together all aspects of the entertainment industry - design, promoters, production companies, insurance companies, industry attorneys - to try to make the whole system safer,” he said. “We’ve made a lot of progress, but more still needs to be done.”
That includes upgrading the inspections themselves - one of Thornton Tomasetti’s recommendations.
“It can be a waste [of time] if inspectors don't know what to look for. That's the trick, the key. They need to know what they're looking at. There are jurisdictions where people have no idea what they're looking at, so they turn a blind eye to it,” Franklin said.
The problem, Franklin says, is one of uniformity. Structural inspection can vary wildly from state to state, even city to city.
“In New York City, you as a design professional, you stamp the drawings. You are required to do an inspection of the system yourself. And there's other places where there's not even permits pulled. We had a show in June in Seattle, and they asked us to design it for snow load,” Franklin said.
Thornton Tomasetti’s report recommends more site specific construction and inspection.
“On the larger systems, we are doing more site specific now,” Franklin agreed. “It might be for, say a seismic in California, or for greater wind speeds off the ocean, based on exposure categories. There's a lot of conversation about that right now in the industry, because, basically you're playing probability when you have that temporary factor in there. Because I've only got so many days of exposure, my chances of getting hit by a 90 mph wind are a lot less. But who's to say you won't have a 90 mph wind during that time frame?”
Another criticism in the Thornton Tomasetti report revolved around the State Fair’s “contingency plan,” which involved lowering the roof trusses in the event of severe weather. The report called the plan “unrealistic.”
Franklin was quick to agree.
“[Event Safety Alliance] has urged the development of a wind management plan, so that when the winds start to come up, there’s a step by step process in place. You drop the wind walls on the side. Those actions
need to be able to be completed quickly. The lowering of the entire roof is difficult. It's not a five-minute process. It's a 20-30 minute process,” Franklin said.
In the wake of the initial investigation into what happened that August night, Gov. Mitch Daniels signed Senate Enrolled Act 273. His signature on March 16 came after months of study and debate, and was aimed at putting tighter regulations on construction and inspection of temporary structures across the state.
The bill’s author, Sen. Tim Lanane, D-Anderson, called the measure a “temporary fix,” as lawmakers waited to find out what recommendations the two companies would make.
“We knew these reports were forthcoming,” he said. “The legislature thought it was a good idea to receive these reports. There's a study committee in place to officially receive these reports and see if there's anything we need to do to come back and do anything further.”
One of Thornton Tomasetti’s recommendations - to classify all temporary stage structures in Indiana as “Class 1” structures - is already contained in the bill, Lanane said.
“Indianapolis thought that Class 1 structures were already in building code for these, and the state code folks and the fire marshal’s office wasn't so sure. There were arguments over whether the city had jurisdiction to inspect at the fairgrounds, since it’s state property. This bill makes it all clear that they do,” Lanane said.
Indianapolis already mandates inspections on temporary stage structures put up within city limits.
Now, Lanane says the state is covered too, by a “stop-gap” measure that gives the Indiana Department of Homeland Security’s Fire Prevention and Building Codes Commission the power to adopt additional regulations on construction and inspection.
“It puts really, a plan together between now and accepting what are in these reports,” said Sen. Jim Merritt. R-Indianapolis, one of the bill’s co-sponsors. “It allows us to kind of have a stop gap, between the sine die of the legislature and when we get back into session where we can take a look at these reports and take a look at the various committees - what they're proposing - and make the correct changes so this type of tragedy doesn't happen again.”
But putting those plans into practice hasn’t happened overnight.
The Fire Prevention and Building Codes Commission has not yet issued its new rules, and it’s unclear what - if any - of the recommendations delivered Thursday it might choose to implement.
24-Hour News 8’s calls to members of the commission were not returned Thursday, but Lanane said he’s confident many of the recommendations made at Thursday’s meeting are already front and center.
“There are industry standards are out there which are readily available and could be easily adopted by the commission as the official standards within the state of Indiana. And, it seems to me that's where the commission is probably headed in terms of putting these state regulations into place,” he said.
Still, some are worried that a delay in doing so could prove problematic.
“We have what I think is a very good temporary fix, which is to classify these outdoor things as structures, as if they were buildings, which tightens up the regulatory scheme,” said Rep. Ed Delaney, D-Indianapolis, another co-sponsor of SB 273. “That's good. But,we need to go deeper. We need to start asking the people in the state - the fire marshal and building authority--how we're doing on enforcing that. We need to move faster. We've got a summer coming, and we cannot have a significant chance of this happening again.”
SB 273 mandates that the new rules will apply 60 days after they are adopted by the commission, or on June 30, 2012, whichever is later. That means outdoor concerts across the state may not be subjected to the additional regulations beyond “Class 1” inspections for at least some of the summer months.
For Lanane, the clock is ticking.
“I hope it’s not later than June 30 that they do have the regulations in place. Because we're heading into the season where these structures are going up,” he said.
“We don't have a lot of legislative oversight in this state,” agreed Delaney. “It bothers me. We don't need to just pass legislation and go home. We need to then say, 'OK, what's happening with this?' I'd like to hear that they're well along.”
Then, pausing, he sighed.
“The state needs to get on it, get the word out, and start enforcing it. It's going to be costly. I think ticket prices are going to go up for these outdoor venues. There's no way around it. But, we'll get more safety. And that’s the most important thing.”
Ground rules for posting comments: No profanity or personal attacks. No racially charged comments. If it's not something you would say to someone's face, it's most likely inappropriate. Please comment on the subject of the story itself. If you do not follow these rules, we will remove your post. Repeat offenders will be banned from making future comments. Keep it civil, folks! WANE is not responsible for the content posted in this comment section.