October is National Fire Prevention Month. At home, we might think about maintenance on our smoke detectors, or teaching the kids to stop, drop, and roll. But as theatre professionals, it’s our duty to make sure our colleagues (working both onstage and offstage) and our guests (the audience) enjoy a safe experience while gathering in our other “house.”
I remember my college lighting professor telling the class that the stage house is a hardhat area. With rigging, electrics, and curtains—so much potentially dangerous equipment—in one space, accidents can and do happen. Yet, paradoxically, we encourage and enjoy watching our loved ones perform unprotected in this hardhat environment.
As venue operators, school administrators, producers, and stagehands we have a vital role to play in the safety of our colleagues and patrons. Planning and prevention are the best tools we can use.
So in honor of National Fire Prevention Month, I will be sharing a series of articles giving an overview of where we are today when it comes to the who, what, where, when, and why of theatre fire safety issues:
- When things go bad: Two catastrophic theatre fires and how they happened.
- Curtains and draperies: How to care for and maintain them.
- Fire suppression in the theatre: Fire curtains, sprinklers, and deluge systems.
- Blackout! Emergency exit lighting in the theatre.
- An ounce of prevention…because we can’t afford the cure.
This is a good month for all of us to make sure our equipment, venues, and sites are as fire safe as we can make them.