Tim McGraw, Keith Urban, Carrie Underwood—these stars and more drew thousands of Country music lovers to Nashville for the 2019 CMA Fest, specifically Nashville’s Nissan Stadium. Despite some inclement weather, the Tennessee Titans were filled with capacity crowds for four summer days in a row. To ensure that everyone in the audience, plus all the performers, stadium employees, and officials, remained safe among the droves of people, rain or shine, the safety and security team operated according to a predetermined playbook and with high-performance equipment.

Referencing weather intelligence from Baron that weekend, stadium officials effectively planned for and executed best-practice shelter-in-place protocols when lightning struck nearby without compromising the venue’s screening process.

Developing a Plan


In previous years, things were not as seamless. A weather radio, consumer weather alerts on cell phones, and, for significant events, a representative from the local Office of Emergency Management—in the past, these resources provided weather information for a stadium with a seating capacity of nearly 70,000. At the time, the OEM representative monitoring the weather data system used by the municipality was a critical asset for operational decision-making. “It was solely based on that person’s observations,” recalls Floyd Hyde, Nissan Stadium Safety Manager—“and he wasn’t always in the command center, so if he weren’t here, we wouldn’t know about [a threatening weather event] until later.”

Like most sports venues, lightning threatens the safety of those inside and outside the downtown Nashville stadium. According to an estimate by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), as many as 62 percent of lightning fatalities occur during outdoor organized sports activities. Mitigating the risks associated with lightning is an essential goal for the stadium, and shelter-in-place protocols for lightning constitute a primary tool for keeping people out of danger. With sources of weather information that could be unresponsive or unspecific, however, effectively and efficiently following the protocol could become a challenge.

When a shelter-in-place is executed before a game or event, venues of primary size face a dilemma. Hundreds of thousands in line to be screened by security could be exposed to the elements outside the structure. They must be sheltered, but simply allowing everyone access to the stadium and skipping security checks endangers everyone inside since contraband may quickly enter the stadium undetected. An ideal plan provides shelter to unscreened crowds and keeps them safely outside of screened areas so that standard security protections remain strong. A method of this type would require some advanced notice of a shelter-in-place condition to take steps to ensure the two goals get met appropriately.

NFL best practices for safety and security state that stadiums must institute a shelter-in-place if lightning strikes within eight miles. Still, depending on second-hand information and weather radio, the stadium was “kind of just running it off the hip,” Hyde says.

To better equip the stadium’s safety and security team to make operations smoother and safer, Nissan Stadium officials contacted several weather service providers and scheduled demonstrations. To warn stadium employees of an impending shelter-in-place, the stadium’s ideal weather service would allow the operations team to track severe weather as it develops to judge whether a threatening storm would approach the venue.

Real-time weather intelligence in Niassan Stadium location and beyond.
Baron Threat Net provides Nissan Stadium with real-time, actionable weather intelligence.

Advanced Tracking and Data Improve Stadium Operations

During a previous year’s CMA Fest, Nissan Stadium watched closely as storms developed. The operations team was reviewing two competitive weather service systems, and when comparing them, they found Baron Threat Net to display changes in the weather more quickly. The Baron option offered several other advantages, too, including a user-friendly interface. “It’s just easy to work with,” says Hyde.

“It was easy for us to show the other team members in the command center how to work their way through the filters and the programs.” Most importantly, the service provided Nissan Stadium with real-time, actionable storm tracking and lightning data. Ultimately, stadium officials opted for the Baron solution.

-- Floyd Hyde, Nissan Stadium Safety Manager

“The biggest thing we were lacking at that time was the distance of the lightning strikes,” says Hyde. Now, “one of the good benefits of Baron Threat Net is that they have the detection set up where we can set our parameters to the eight-mile perimeter,” he adds. “We don’t have anyone constantly monitoring the radar, so it’s beneficial.” The stadium has set up several custom alerts, including for lightning within a 15-mile radius and within a 20-mile radius, to ensure critical players know when severe weather might be headed for the stadium. This early warning capability allows the operations staff to involve the General Manager of the Stadium and the Titans’ Vice President early on in the decision-making process.

During significant concerts and events such as CMA Fest, producers and other entertainment professionals in the command center are quickly advised of the weather situation. Lightning data is displayed with a color-coded lightning icon on the map so users can differentiate between Cloud-to-Cloud (purple) and Cloud-to-Ground lightning (yellow for negative, white for positive strikes). The intuitive display—the larger the icon, the more recent the strike—allows all involved to keep abreast of any development so that any interruption to the show can occur in the smoothest way possible. On the other hand, Baron Threat Net and Storm Tracks enable the team to predict if a storm will not cross the stadium, meaning no time or resources are wasted preparing for a storm moving in the opposite direction.

“Baron algorithms depict what the future may look like thirty minutes to an hour down the road,” Hyde says, so “we can start implementing our plan to secure parts of the stadium.” During the latest CMA Fest, Nissan Stadium had to initiate a shelter-in-place no fewer than three times. When these occurred, the stadium team’s advance notice from Baron Threat Net proved essential to seamlessly implementing the best practice plan, sheltering people waiting to enter the stadium while retaining high security. The stadium opened flood gates generally used for egress, letting around a thousand people into sheltered areas separated from screened sections on opposing sides. From that state, security personnel began to screen visitors inside. During the thirty-minute hold from the last strike (Baron Threat Net notifies users of a thirty-minute all-clear), the stadium successfully screened the majority of the attendees in the cordoned-off area, so by the time of the all-clear, security returned to normal operations—with no backlog.

Stadium Safety/Security Practices Enabled by Baron Threat Net

With lightning strike data, highly accurate storm tracking, and more, Baron Threat Net provides Nissan Stadium with real-time, actionable weather intelligence. Hence, everyone at the stadium enjoys safety and security commensurate with the NFL’s highest standards. In addition to the CMA Fest incidents, Nissan Stadium has capitalized on the new capability for two football games and multiple other events, including the NFL Draft. Moreover, the service delivers helpful insight for the organization in different ways. For example, Baron Threat Net’s location-specific National Weather Service notifications help trainers and coaches organize practices at the Titans’ offsite training facility. Additionally, executives traveling with the team to other cities utilize the Baron Threat Net app to advise the team of any expected game delays and to inform logistics. With Baron weather intelligence, various Titans decisions—from operations to coaching—benefit from accurate and up-to-date information.