The events industry has become increasingly reliant on effective power distribution. Whether it is a large-scale music festival with elaborate light shows or small corporate events with sound systems and presentations, technological development has driven higher rates of energy usage from event organisers. With the festival season coming up, Matt Collins, business development manager of power distribution specialist ide Systems, explains how contractors can ensure equipment is installed efficiently, effectively and safely.
The UK events sector is booming. The industry is currently valued at £42.3 billion and, according to Eventbrite’s 2016 pulse report, 67 per cent of event organisers believe their events will grow and 20 per cent expect their budgets to increase. These are substantial statistics that show an optimistic and growing industry.
However, these growth projections bring with them the pressures of ensuring that operations run smoothly. With increasingly demanding applications and energy-intensive equipment, both event organisers and electrical contractors are responsible for keeping everything functioning effectively.
While event organisers are tasked with sourcing suppliers and accurately quoting specifications, contractors must fit equipment properly and ensure everything is installed in a safe and timely fashion. To do this, contractors must bear several factors in mind.
In many instances, the organiser of the event is not an electrical professional and may not have a strong understanding of regulatory standards for temporary electrical distribution equipment. As such, it is important that contractors double-check to ensure that equipment is compliant and certified safe to use.
The electrical safety standard in the UK is BS 7671, which is better known as the IET wiring regulations seventeenth edition. Theoretically, any power distribution installation certified to this standard is safe for use. However, this does not automatically make it compliant. For electrical equipment to be used at an event it must comply not only with BS 7671, but also with BS 7909 — the set of standards for temporary electrical systems at events.
Power distribution equipment at events must be certified to both BS 7671 and BS 7909, though there are a handful of exceptions to this rule. For example, temporary power for fairgrounds is covered by BS 7671 alone without the explicit need for BS 7909. These complexities mean event organisers can easily get lost in guidelines, making it essential that contractors understand the relevant legislation and double-check the compliance of equipment. This can be easily done by consulting the certification that is supplied with the product.
Once compliance has been confirmed, contractors can begin to set up distribution equipment. In most cases, the installation process is straightforward as organisers will have purchased plug and play power systems that provide simple assembly and connection. Yet there are several application and environmental factors contractors must consider. In the initial brief provided, the event organiser should have supplied a diagram mapping where everything at the event will be set up. Contractors use this to determine where each application is and to determine the best means of distributing power to them.
Understandably, the set-up process at an event can be hectic as many structures are being installed simultaneously. Electrical contractors can minimise disruption by beginning the process of fitting distribution equipment after the initial set-up begins, allowing other fitters to have established the groundwork for structures first.
It is not uncommon for last-minute layout alterations to occur, leading to contractors having to move equipment around accordingly. Contractors must therefore be versatile and able to easily reposition equipment on an ad hoc basis, which is why most event organisers will purchase plug and play electrical equipment so that it is fast and efficient to assemble and take down without the need for heavy duty tools.
Likewise, contractors must consider the environment when installing equipment. For instance, running cables long distances between stages at a festival may not be advisable due to the number of vehicles travelling along trackways. Similarly, all cabling must be fitted safely and securely with minimal crossing of walking spaces to avoid posing a health and safety risk to attendees.
Environmental considerations are also important for power distribution units, which are prone to being damaged during setting and packing due to the discrete colouring of enclosures. It is for this reason that we regularly urge organisers to use event power distribution units with bright enclosures to ensure visibility.
The show must go on
Even after the event begins, a contractor’s work is not finished. As anybody that attended the 2015 Nibley music festival — which famously lost power mid-afternoon on the second day and wasn't restored for the remainder of the show — can attest, problems with power distribution equipment during events are not unheard of. As such, contractors must be on hand to help restore power in a timely and efficient manner.
The first step to doing this is by ensuring that there are additional cable runs available to extend or replace existing lines as necessary. Cabling is a likely cause of failure during large-scale events, so having a backup will minimise the impact of power cuts.
However, the most effective way for contractors to resolve issues with other equipment, such as transformers and distribution units, is to have an emergency event power supplier on hand. For example, ide Systems’ rental service, can provide same-day delivery of replacement equipment to ensure that power is restored effectively.
While the process of physically installing temporary event power systems is relatively straightforward, the surrounding considerations are more complicated. With the right preparation and planning, contractors can work with organisers to provide stable power and help foster the overall growth of the event industry.