Branson, MO is home to The Track Family Fun Parks, a venue that offers outdoor and indoor attractions of all types including go-kart tracks, laser tag, a Ferris wheel, mini-golf and more. But when severe weather rolls in, how does the entertainment complex safely and efficiently shelter their guests, staff and equipment?
Chief Operating Officer, Bill Stark, knows each day can’t be 70 degrees and sunny, which is why his crew at The Track relies on insight and advice from AccuWeather For Business, the organization’s weather risk mitigation service.
“Weather is a key factor in everything we do and having that partnership as a two-way street allows us to make the best decisions. For example, the sky may look like it’s clearing on our end, but AccuWeather’s meteorologists may end up seeing a system that’s still developing,” Stark said.
The AccuWeather For Business team works year-round with the venue to identify weather impacts, ways to protect guests and staff against major threats, and emphasizes the importance of training all levels of staff to execute business continuity and emergency management plans.
Stark joined The Track Family Fun Parks in 2017, but with prior experience with other outdoor venues, he knows the serious consequences weather can bring and the importance of having a proper plan in place for all weather types.
While spring break, summer, and fall breaks have traditionally been their peak seasons, with the development of new attractions and focused marketing efforts the shoulder seasons are getting stronger. They have also seen an extension to their 2020 season due to changing travel patterns from COVID-19.
“We’ve always tried to be good stewards with our finances and what we manage. While shutting down a park or attraction may mean a temporary reduction in revenue, safety both for our crew and our guests is always first, and AccuWeather is a partner we trust to help us make these decisions,” Stark said.
Weather determines the number of people not only working at the venue but gives them an idea of their potential customer volume. From March to Labor Day, The Track Family Fun Parks leadership team is responsible for the safety of anywhere from 100 to 220+ employees in addition to guests.
Wind and lightning are the park’s primary threats and having enough advance warning ahead of the event to shut down and shelter is vital. Many attractions must shut down when specific wind and lightning thresholds are reached. And with a newly installed ice rink – as big as the one in New York City’s Rockefeller Center – insight into temperatures to properly maintain the rink is crucial.
AccuWeather’s business weather experts formed a plan with The Track’s specific criteria and manufacturing guidelines. By monitoring their exact location with SkyGuard® Severe Weather Warnings, AccuWeather immediately warns the park when any of these events are imminent, giving them advance warning to prepare operations before wind and lightning even arrive.
Like other AccuWeather For Business customers, The Track Family Fun Parks leadership team is able to have a two-way dialogue with AccuWeather’s meteorologists any time they need to talk through different scenarios and clarify any questions about how the weather could develop. Meteorologists are available for conference calls and briefings 24x7x365, and for a park open on holidays, this is an important service.
“Timing is everything. It helps to have someone that is looking at our specific location rather than relying on a general source. Because of this, with AccuWeather’s guidance we can release or extend warnings or alerts efficiently and safely,” Stark said.
Because the crew is constantly on-the-go, they appreciate the fact that in the event of severe weather a member of AccuWeather’s team will call to ensure The Track has received or acknowledged a warning, especially when a tornado threat is looming.
Training Is Key
While The Track already had AccuWeather services in place before Stark joined the organization, the team has expanded the use of AccuWeather’s services in the company.
Together with AccuWeather For Business, they have since built robust business continuity and emergency management plans around the weather and have successfully trained their managers and supervisors. The plans include shelter-in-place response protocol for guests and staff, as well as laminated flip charts with key contact and procedure instructions. These procedures were developed in conjunction with AccuWeather emergency management experts and are also included in all warnings sent to park personnel.
Because of seasonality, it is important to have proper training in place and ensure the crew understands the tool and takes it seriously. Not only are managers aware of the plans, assistant managers and supervisors are also educated.
“We make it a priority to invest in first-class training of an unbiased, outside source that is giving us accurate information based on our specific geographic location,” Stark said.
At the beginning of each season, training is conducted that includes a walkthrough for different weather scenarios. In addition, AccuWeather travels on-site seasonally to hold in-person training sessions and fine tune weather response procedures.
“Annual instructor-led training is an essential part of any business’ staff safety program,” said Tom Bedard, an AccuWeather For Business emergency management expert and meteorologist. “As your policies and response plans change, and as the science evolves, annual training allows staff the opportunity to learn about those changes in an effective way.”
In addition, the park partners with the local fire department to come on location to help with shelter identification for situations involving lightning, wind or a tornado. With many people visiting who are not familiar with traffic patterns or surrounding back roads, they depend on The Track to help them navigate the storm safely.
An independent partner such as AccuWeather shifts the burden off of the crew to be their own meteorologists, equips them with relevant information and speeds up reaction time.
“A partnership with AccuWeather is vital to what we do to keep our crew and guests safe,” said Stark. “That’s why we invest in this service and have truly appreciated our collaboration over the years.”
Benefits of SkyGuard Warnings
- A team of expert severe weather meteorologists is watching out for the venue 24x7x365
- Venue-specific warnings that offer earlier notice before disruptive weather hits allow more time to shelter
- All-clear notifications minimize weather-related downtime and let the crew know when the fun can resume
- The ability to talk directly with a meteorologist can help management make the best decisions in a weather emergency
- A secure, customized weather portal and mobile app with real-time radar, damage reports, and warnings for their location