An NFL Draft stage set-up in front of the Art Museum. Credit: Anna Orso/Billy Penn

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You may remember the organized chaos on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway in summer 2014. It was during the now-annual Made in America festival — the Jay Z-curated mega-concert that takes place in the middle of the city on Labor Day weekend — and tens of thousands of concert-goers were ushered out of the area as a massive thunderstorm rolled into town.

An hour later, attendees were let back in without major incident. But representatives from Philadelphia’s Office of Emergency Management learned a lot, and they say how they managed that event is similar to how they’ll run safety operations in conjunction with the NFL Draft, this year’s other major event on the Parkway.

So the big question for an event held at the end of April is: What if it thunderstorms (or just plain rains) on the Draft? (Accuweather’s extended forecast is currently calling for 68 degrees and “a bit of rain” throughout the weekend.)

NFL officials said the Draft — in addition to a huge set-up along the Parkway of outdoor activities open to the public — is a rain or shine event and they’ll work with local, state and federal officials in the area in case of a severe storm. Last year’s Draft took place outdoors in Chicago, and the cold and windy conditions were described as “football weather.” Safe to say the NFL’s dealt with rain on their fully-outdoor parade before, but a spokesman for the league wouldn’t share details about the organization’s safety planning for the Draft.

Dan Bradley, acting director of the Philadelphia Office of Emergency Management, said the city’s used to hosting large events in “difficult weather conditions,” citing specifically the Democratic National Convention that took place last July during a heat wave. OEM and their partners facilitated evacuations from FDR Park due to the temperatures.

Unlike other mega events like the Papal visit and the DNC, the NFL Draft — though security’s tight — isn’t a “National Special Security Event.” The U.S. Secret Service calls the shots during events with that designation, and the FBI and FEMA support those.

Bradley said in the case of the NFL Draft, Made in America (also not a NSSE) is a good comparison in terms of how planning is structured, as there’s a “public safety leadership group” composed of city agencies like the Office of Special Events and police along with the NFL that will be on-site throughout the event. They’re the ones who will make a call about evacuation if there’s a safety concern. He added that there are previously-set “thresholds” for potential hazards like severe wind or thunderstorms with lightning that may trigger action from city officials.

An Office of Emergency Management set-up along the Parkway. Credit: Anna Orso/Billy Penn

Throughout the event, OEM, using its “Regional Integration Center,” will also be in close contact with the National Weather Service Mt. Holly office and monitoring conditions for any public safety concerns. Like it does during most large events, OEM will also deploy its “mobile command post,” which is described as “a space for decision makers to convene and take action.” There, they’ll monitor the weather specific to the NFL Draft while the RIC keeps watch over the rest of the city.

Officials said there’s no cause for “undue concern” at this point, but attendees can stay informed on conditions and public safety announcements on the OEM website, through the NFL app, or via jumbotrons and public address systems on the Parkway. You can also subscribe to get free text or email alerts involving weather, SEPTA, traffic and emergencies through ReadyPhiladelphia, the city’s mass notification system. To sign up for ReadyPhiladelphia, go to OEM’s website and click on “sign up for alerts.”

OEM also offered a couple tips for staying safe in that (hopefully) nice April weather:

  • Take the time to make a plan if you get separated or there’s an emergency. Look at a map; find a familiar location where you will meet up with family and friends.
  • If you need emergency help and call 911, look for the locator signs we placed along the parkway, find a landmark or street sign so you can describe where you are.
  • When you put on your team’s jersey, post a picture to social media or send to someone you’re with in case you get split up.
  • Dress for the weather: Follow the forecast for the day.

Anna Orso was a reporter/curator at Billy Penn from 2014 to 2017.