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Do you know what you don’t know about safety?

Safety & Codes | October 1, 2012 | By:

Trade associations and safe, successful tenting go hand in hand.

One of the biggest mistakes I see committed by emerging small- and medium-sized tent rental companies is in the area of safety to their customers and property. As the saying goes, they don’t know what they don’t know.

This is where the value of membership with trade associations comes into play.

For a tent rental company to be successful, an owner has to be a marketer, an accountant, a safety manager, a tent technician and a human resources director all at once. Fortunately, these are all subjects addressed by trade associations to assist members in achieving profitable operations.

When my company, Event Central Tent and Party Rental of Mechanicsburg, Pa., opened in 1987, I had two hours of training in the setup of the three frame tents we purchased. It wasn’t until two years later, while attending a Mid-Atlantic Tent Renters Association (MATRA) training meeting, that I realized the vast amount of information available to me through trade associations.

I would say an owner needs at least 40 hours of hands-on training at a manufacturer’s site or via trade associations to begin to have a basic understanding of the tent business. Being an active member in an industry association, and putting in the time to become educated and trained, is the only way for a new company to grasp the elements of tenting and to understand how to deliver a safe tent.

Here are some example of how industry associations help educate successful companies.

Proper staking

Staking is at the core of every installation, and is perceived as a simple concept. But many renters do not undergo the basic training on assessing soil types in relation to the stake to affect the anchoring load called for by the design criteria provided by manufacturers. The Tent Rental Division (TRD) of Industrial Fabrics Association International addressed this issue with a study, producing a staking guide that spells out in layman’s language what needs to be known to meet the objective. Yet many installers have neither been trained on the concept, nor studied the document. Understanding the staking guide could be considered the base layer on which a tent is erected.

Emergency plans for events

Every tent rental customer needs to have a plan in the event of severe weather. Recent weather-related incidents involving tents demonstrate the need for every tent renter to educate customers on the necessity of an emergency plan. The American Rental Association (ARA) has formed a working group that will address best practices for emergency planning in tent rental for the party and event segment of the industry.

Safe ballasting

Ten years ago it was almost unheard of to weight frame tents in place of staking, which created a huge gap in the knowledge base of many tent rental companies. The result is that some installers chronically underweight tents without realizing the risks. TRD members recognized this exposure and funded an engineering study to better understand the holding characteristics of ballasting as it equates to the manufacturers’ anchoring requirements regardless of the type or size of tent. A ballasting calculation tool developed from this study is now available to TRD members.

Hands-on experience

Many new tent rental companies build up their inventory by purchasing used tents from other rental operations and never get the opportunity to meet the manufacturers. Regional tent shows sponsored by associations such as MATRA and Tent Renters Association of the Midwest (TRAM) are fantastic training grounds for rental store owners and employees who are looking to learn the craft.

These are some of the priority issues for trade associations, addressed in newsletters, shows, training sessions, safety bulletins, industry studies, trade publications and collateral training material distributed to or by members. Business and social events, where professionals discuss day-to-day challenges and solutions, offer additional education.

Every business today must closely examine all costs in order to survive and thrive. When it comes to trade association membership and show attendance, can you afford to not be an active participant?

Scott Woodruff is owner of Event Central Tent and Party Rental of Mechanicsburg, Pa., and a member of the InTents advisory committee.

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