Fire, A Very Present Danger
Fire signoffs in some venues can be a pain, especially if one is not prepared ahead of time. The thing is, the danger is very real. Case in point, the Nightclub fire in RI back in 2003.
Over the years, I’ve seen a ton of potential fires, but fortunately never has anything get beyond something which a small extinguisher couldnt deal with. It can be pretty obvious things, like a drape that got too close to lighting gear, and didnt have enough fireproofing, or odd deals, where a speaker cable gets shredded when a drunk gets into the wrong place at the wrong time.
The thing is, with signoffs, most of the time, unless the stage gear is brand new, and you have recent traceability, its going to mean a personal sign off… and then, if something happens, well you know who gets to go to jail. Whats worse, is one can think one did all the right things, and still find themselves in a jam. The only real way to know, at least with some confidence is to run your own tests…
Fortunately, FDNY has published a study guide for Certificate of Fitness for flameproofing materials used for artistic enhancement in public buildings, and they include a field flame test.
Field Flame Test
Three sample strips, at least 1 1/2 inches wide by 4 inches long, must be tested individually in a safe and draft free location. The material must be suspended with the long axis vertical (ideally the sample strip should be suspended using a steel tongs). Then the flame from a common wooden match must be applied to the center of the bottom edge of the sample strip for 12 seconds. The effect of the flame on the sample strip must be carefully observed and recorded. In order to pass the field flame test, the material must meet the following criteria:
- The flame must not spread rapidly over the entire sample
- The sample must not continue to burn for more than 2 seconds after the match has been removed.
- Flaming materials must not break or drip from the sample and continue to burn when they reach the floor.
Granted, for many, at least those starting out, fire sign offs are going to seem way out there… the thing is, the club fire in Warwick, RI was a small venue, it likely did not have signoffs, other than permits for pyro etc. Fire is no respector of size, nor venue, and if by chance, something shorts out, a beer goes flying into the wrong thing, someone falls, etc… you dont want your stage backdrops or other material bursting into flame, and potentially killing people.
This is especially the case for new bands, where perhaps they made their own props, from who knows what material, and whether it was fire proof or not…. Or maybe, they had one of the guys run stuff through the laundry at home, and thus rendered any fireproofing worthless. Its no time to find out you have a problem, when there is a 4ft flame behind the drummer. Test, and if it fails, reapply fireproofing and get it right. This is no place for games.