SURVEY: GIVE US AN UPDATE
To help us monitor needs and share best practice, we ask for you to complete this very short survey about how your business is preparing for the solar eclipses of 2023 and 2024. We will share the results with all participants and use the information to help plan our community's response.
Fredericksburg will be in the direct path of the total eclipse on April 8, 2024. There will not be another solar eclipse, visible within the continental United States, until 2044.
NASA's livestream of the 2017 total solar eclipse received millions of views. A University of Michigan study revealed that 215 million American adults watched that total solar eclipse either digitally or in person, eclipsing (pun intended) the 111 million viewers of that year's Super Bowl.
We know that communities that were in the path of the last total solar eclipse to pass over the US in 2017 received significant numbers of visitors to view the event, creating both opportunities and challenges for local businesses.
A group of community stakeholders, led by the City of Fredericksburg, has been meeting since 2020 to coordinate a community response. The Fredericksburg Chamber of Commerce's role in this response is to assist local businesses with timely updates, planning resources and logistical support, as needed.
We have visited with our Chamber peers in many of the communities impacted by the 2017 total solar eclipse who have been very generous in sharing their lessons learned. Much of our response has been informed by their experiences that we look forward to sharing with you.
ANNULAR VS. TOTAL: WHAT'S THE DIFFERENCE?
An annular eclipse happens when the moon is farthest from Earth. Because the moon is farther away from Earth, it seems smaller and does not block the entire view of the sun.
While this is a significant and unique occurrence, it is not expected to attract large-scale attendance.
A total solar eclipse happens when the Moon passes between the Sun and Earth, completely blocking the face of the Sun. People located in the center of the Moon’s shadow when it hits Earth will experience a total eclipse. The sky will darken, as if it were dawn or dusk.
More than 31 million people across the United States will be in the path of totality with another 149 million living within 200 miles. There will not be another total solar eclipse visible from the contiguous United States until 2044. With the rarity of this occurrence, our prime location in the zone of totality and popularity as a destination, we are expected to receive unusually large volumes of visitors.
In Fredericksburg, the April 8 total eclipse will begin the partial phase at 12:15 p.m. Totality will begin at 1:32 p.m. and last for 4 minutes and 23.9 seconds.
WHAT SHOULD I BE THINKING ABOUT?
Business have many important decisions to consider in preparing for the eclipses. Many of the markets from which products and services are usually sourced, may also be impacted, creating increased demand. Transportation access will be limited near and on the date of the eclipses. Greater volumes of visitors to Fredericksburg and the region also create a reason for business owners to begin planning early.
The exact number of eclipse watchers, especially for the 2024 Total Solar Eclipse, is impossible to estimate, but significant numbers of visitors are expected, based on data from the 2017 eclipse that passed over the United States. The following are considered to be likely impacts that businesses should consider in planning:
CHILDREN AT HOME
The Fredericksburg Independent School District and Harper Independent School District will be closed on April 8, 2024 for the total solar eclipse. It is expected that many childcare facilities, who mirror the school schedule, will also be closed.
TEMPORARY FUEL SHORTAGES/SUPPLY DELAYS
Employees should be encouraged to fill automobiles completely several days prior to the eclipse as increased demand and delivery disruption will likely cause temporary shortages.
CELL PHONE AND INTERNET SERVICE DISRUPTION
Increased visitation and concentrated usage patterns will likely affect cell phone service and Internet access. Businesses should create a back-up plan for point of sale, security, payment processing and other operations that rely on connectivity. Additional support has been requested for safety and security communication. It is not expected these resources will add any consumer access.
Staffing plans should be set and communicated in advance since day-of communication with employees may be limited or not possible at all.
Businesses may experience a higher volume of cash sales in light of cell and Internet access challenges. Appropriate plans should be made to have sufficient cash-on-hand and safe storage of cash. Confirm deposit protocols and access with your bank prior to the eclipse and be prepared if traffic delays or prevents timely deposit.
The City of Fredericksburg will be adding portable restrooms and dumpsters, but they may reach capacity before service is possible. Visitors will be camping in authorized and potentially unauthorized locations.
Historically weather patterns make Central Texas a premier place to view the eclipse events. However, should unfavorable viewing conditions develop, visitors may attempt to find better viewing locations. Businesses should protect themselves with clearly stated reservation and payment policies.
Delivery schedules will likely be impacted by increased demand, traffic volume and fuel supply. Order key supplies that can be stored in advance. However, best practice from other communities that have experienced eclipse events caution against over-ordering perishable supplies as unknown volumes, changing weather conditions and traffic related access may negatively affect sales.
The brief period of time of total solar eclipse offers a rare opportunity to observe the sun with the naked eye. However, looking directly at the sun at any other time, including during partial eclipse, can cause severe and permanent eye damage. Take the time to train your employees and teach them how to assist customers in safe viewing practice. Proper protection includes ISO-rated solar eclipse glasses (see below). These glasses may become scare as the eclipse nears, so order now.
For most people, viewing a solar eclipse is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and on April 8, 2024, Fredericksburg will experience nearly 4.5 minutes of eclipse totality.
At any eclipse viewing event, safety is the most important concern. According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology, looking directly at the sun for even a brief period of time without proper protection can cause permanent retinal damage.
Solar eclipse glasses that conform to and meet the Transmission Requirements of ISO 12312-2 are needed for safe, direct viewing. Sunglasses, even those with very dark lenses, are NOT suitable. Viewing the eclipse through an unfiltered camera, binoculars or telescope is also not safe. Solar eclipse glasses are readily available now, but will become more difficult to source as the eclipses draw near.
The Fredericksburg Chamber of Commerce Eclipse Business Planning Guide is a free publication intended to assist all businesses in preparing for the 2024 solar eclipses. Click below to add as many email subscriptions as you like!
If you DO NOT wish to receive future Eclipse Business Planning communications, but DO want to remain on the Fredericksburg Chamber of Commerce's weekly newsletter subscription list, please email your request to firstname.lastname@example.org. Thank you!
Thanks to those that attended the June 21 Leaders Breakfast, a focus on eclipse preparedness.
We would also like to thank our community presenters: Jennifer Krupa, Justin Calhoun, Jen Page, McKenzie Moellering, Lindsey Bacon Pansing, Chief Brian Vorauer, Sheriff Buddy Mills and Kelli Olfers for their time and expertise.
Below please find links to the presentation deck and resource links mentioned by our speakers.