Song, wind, and mayhem: The Indiana State Fair stage collapse




temporary structure design code, emergency planning, emergency response


The study of planning and execution failures resulting in disastrous outcomes for public events often offers much value when preparing for similar future events. While not recent, the lessons learned from the Indiana State Fair stage collapse of 2011 remain especially pertinent, due to thorough technical and managerial forensic investigations and their rigorous examination during subsequent litigation about the fatal event. Continued concern about life safety and inconsistent building code enforcement and design guidance for publicly occupied temporary structures, eg, outdoor stages, recently drew recommended changes by the International Code Council for the 2024 edition of the International Building Code. Codification of technical lessons learned is seldom immediate. Even with checklists and written plans of action, the full context of managerial lessons learned can be forgotten, as people without first-hand experience of earlier disasters plan later events. Salient events of the past can reinforce valuable lessons for today’s practitioners, even to produce building code changes. That is certainly so for the Indiana State Fair stage collapse of August 2011.

Author Biography

Randy R. Rapp, DMgt, PE, CCP

Named Professor of Disaster Restoration & Reconstruction, Associate Professor of Construction Management, Purdue School of Construction Management (Tech), West Lafayette, Indiana


Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA): Incident command system. Available at Accessed December 30, 2014.

CBS News: Report: Collapsed Indiana fair stage didn’t meet code. April 12, 2012, 8:51 pm. Available at Accessed January 4, 2015.

Witt Associates: An independent assessment of the August 13, 2011 Indiana State Fair collapse incident. 2012.

Indiana Division of Homeland Security: Indiana State Fairgrounds table-top exercise situation manual. 2011.

Task Committee on Guidelines for Failure Investigation: Guidelines for Failure Investigation. New York: American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE), 1989.

Thornton Tomasetti: Indiana State Fair Commission report on August 13, 2011 collapse incident. 2012.

Feld J, Carper KL: Construction Failure. 2nd ed. New York: John Wiley & Sons, 1997.

Post NM: First model code specific to temporary structures out for public comment. Engineering News-Record. 2022. Available at Accessed September 6, 2022.



How to Cite

Rapp, R. R. “Song, Wind, and Mayhem: The Indiana State Fair Stage Collapse”. Journal of Emergency Management, vol. 22, no. 1, Feb. 2024, pp. 81-88, doi:10.5055/jem.0821.