The fire safety recommendations outlined here are considered to be industry best practices. They are presented here to aid the Production in providing a safe environment for employees and to comply with applicable fire codes, laws and regulations. Depending on specific geographic locations, these practices may not fully comply with all local fire codes. The local fire authority having jurisdiction (AHJ) should always be consulted for specific requirements. Where local fire requirements differ from these recommendations, the stricter requirement should be followed. In many instances, special permits or a standby fire safety officer may be required.
In Case of Fire
- Remain Calm
- Activate the fire alarm and alert everyone in the area.
- Call the fire department - 911 (USA) or 999 (UK) or 112 (Europe) or your facility’s emergency number.
- Use a fire extinguisher if you are trained, authorized, the fire is small and ONLY IF SAFE TO DO SO.
- For larger fires, immediately leave the building and proceed to the predetermined assembly point.
General Production Fire Safety
Smoking and e-cigarettes should not permitted in any building, stage, tent, or canopy on the production.
Candles and/or incense are generally not allowed inside any stage or building (including offices) without a permit from the local fire authority.
All scenic backings, drapes, backdrops, green screens, etc. must be treated with a local fire authority approved flame retardant in an approved manner. Treatment is required every three years, or after washing. A flameproof certificate should be kept on file in the production office.
Tents or canopies should have a permanently affixed label designating local fire authority compliance. A flameproof certificate should be kept on file in the production office.
All non-live foliage (i.e., cut brush, tree limbs, etc.) must be treated with a California State Fire Marshal or local AHJ approved fire retardant. Live foliage does not generally require treatment with a fire retardant. Foliage may be subject to a flame test by the local fire authority to determine flammability, if questionable.
Flame-retardants are not effective on translites. To minimize the fire hazard, translites should have non-combustible edges and extra care should be taken to ensure lights and other ignition sources are kept a safe distance away.
No portable propane, catalytic or salamander type heaters should be allowed inside any stages, tents or buildings at any time unless specifically approved by the local fire authority. Atmospheric monitoring may be necessary.
All oxygen, acetylene and other fuel gas cylinders and tanks should be capped and secured or removed from stages when not in use.
No materials should be stored in front of any stage or exit doors. No storage should be allowed on top of hard sets or any open room with a wire mesh ceiling. No storage should be allowed under audience seating unless it is protected by a sprinkler, heat or smoke detection system or approved by the local AHJ.
Construction of audience seating should be in accordance with applicable standards and local fire codes. Other than the standard stage exiting signage, additional signage may be required depending on set arrangement.
If the production is participating in a local AHJ’s Spot Check Program, all requirements of the program, including the Spot Check Form, should be complied with by the production.
Proper housekeeping should be maintained in all work areas, including stages, offices and locations, at all times. All areas should be free from conditions that could create a fire hazard, or contribute to the rapid spread of fire. Waste materials should be removed and properly disposed of on a regular basis.
A 4-foot (1.2 m) fire lane around the interior perimeter of all stages should be maintained at all times. These lanes should also have a minimum clear unobstructed height of 7 feet (2.1 m). No paint storage, set debris, toolboxes, props, set dressing, backings or electrical cords should be stored in the 4-foot (1.2 m) perimeter, even on a temporary basis. All electrical cords, air hoses, etc., crossing the 4-foot (1.2 m) perimeter should be properly matted or ramped.
All designated fire vehicle access lanes and fire protection equipment (i.e., hoses, extinguishers, hydrants, alarm panels, fire sprinkler risers, and exterior roof access ladders) should remain clear for fire department access in case of an emergency.
Solid Interior Set Ceilings
Interior solid set ceiling over 600 square feet (55.7 m2) in area, and platforms over 600 square feet (55.7 m2) in area and which exceed 3 feet (1 m) in height may need to be protected by either an approved heat detector system (connected to an approved alarm service), a removable ceiling system that allows for the operation of the building’s automatic fire sprinkler system, an approved fire watch or a custom fire sprinkler system. Detectors / sprinklers are generally not required beneath raised platforms where there are no ignition sources below, including electrical, and are provided with chicken wire along the entire perimeter to prevent accumulation of storage. The determination as to which system is acceptable and the evaluation of any special fire hazards should be made in consultation with the local AHJ.
Foams and Plastics
Foam plastics (styrofoam) and all materials containing foam plastics used in set construction should conform to UL 1975. Other plastic materials should be flame resistant or should be rendered flame resistant by treatment with a flame retardant coating. Records of treatment should be retained by the production.
Hot work refers to cutting, welding, brazing, grinding, foam cutting/sculpting operations involving heat or hot wire, or any other operation using an open flame or that generates heat or sparks. Whenever possible, hot work should be conducted outdoors at a safe distance away from any building or flammable / combustible storage. A Hot Work Permit should be obtained from the local fire authority prior to starting any hot work.
In the event a permit is not available, the following minimum precautions should be required for all hot work:
- All available fire sprinklers, hoses and extinguishers are in service and operable.
- All hot work equipment is in good repair.
- Within 35 feet (10.7 m) of hot work area, all flammable liquids, gases, dust, lint and oily deposits should be removed. In addition, every attempt should be made to eliminate any combustible material. If combustibles cannot be removed, other methods such as shielding or covering combustibles with fire resistive materials may be acceptable.
- Within 35 feet (10.7 m) of the work area, all openings in walls, floor, and ceilings are covered. This includes all vents, pipe chases, cracks, windows, doors, etc.
- A dedicated fire watch should be required during and for a minimum of 1 hour after all hot work operations are completed. Certain situations may require a dedicated fire watch of longer duration. The fire watch duties can be assigned to anyone who understands the hazards of hot work and is properly trained in the use of portable fire extinguishers and emergency notification procedures. The fire watch has the responsibility to make certain the hot work area is maintained in a fire safe condition throughout the performance of hot work and has the authority to stop hot work is unsafe conditions are observed.
- Fully charged fire extinguishers with a current service tags must be at the hot work site at all times.
Non-flammable paints, thinners, cleaners, etc., should be used whenever possible. All flammable liquids should be handled in approved and listed safety cans with a maximum capacity of 5 gallons (19 L) and stored in approved flammable liquids storage cabinets with the following limitations:
- The combined quantity of Class I and Class II liquids in a cabinet should not exceed 60 gallons (228 L).
- Total quantities of all liquids should not exceed 120 gallons (455 L).
- Class I liquids have flashpoints below 100 °F (37.8 °C).
- Class II liquids have flashpoints between 100 °F (37.8°C) and 140 °F (60 °C).
- No more than 3 cabinets shall be allowed on the stage or work area.
- Cabinets shall not be located in areas which may impede building or set egress.
All containers should be capped when not in use, clearly labeled and have a Safety Data Sheet (SDS) available for review.
When dispensing or transferring Class I liquids, grounding and bonding provisions for protection against static sparks must be provided.
Flammable gases such as propane (LPG), natural gas, butane, etc., are not allowed on stages without prior approval from the local AHJ.
Lacquer should only be applied by brush or roller when on stage or other interior area. Spraying lacquer on stage or other areas other than permitted, approved paint spray booths is prohibited without specialized equipment and a special permit from the local AHJ.
Transportation & Vehicles
Prop or picture vehicles on stages should have a gas tank cap that properly seals with no leakage. The fuel tank should be filled with ¼ tank or less (or removed), the battery should be disconnected and a oil drip pan should be place under the vehicle. Each vehicle should have one dedicated, fully charged fire extinguisher with a current service tag nearby.
If vehicles need to be running during filming, a Fire Safety Officer and / or permit and atmospheric monitoring may be required. In addition, atmospheric monitoring may be necessary.
Drivers of refueling trucks should be in possession of a current local permit to operate. All refueling vehicles must have permanently attached “NO SMOKING” signs posted on the vehicle. Refueling vehicles must be equipped with a fully charged fire extinguisher with a current service tag. Refueling vehicles should never be left unattended when in close proximity to any stage or building. The vehicle or equipment receiving fuel must be powered down before refueling. During dispensing operations, refueling vehicle wheels should be chocked to prevent movement or spillage.
A Fire Safety Officer from the local AHJ may be required:
- For each 250 participants.
- If open flames such as candles, Sterno or gas burners are used.
- If pyrotechnics or flame effects are used during testing, during rehearsal or during the show.
- If fire department access or emergency exits are obstructed.
- If existing fire suppression or detection systems are impaired.
Any special event, audience performance, or assembly whose participants exceed the allowable occupancy loads of its building, sound stage or approved production facility should notify the local fire authority and obtain a special permit from the local AHJ (if required), and may be required to have one or more assigned, standby Fire Safety Officer(s).
A fire watch is implemented to ensure the fire-safety of a building or area in the event of any act (e.g., hot work), or situation resulting in an increased risk to persons or property. The term "Fire Watch" is used to describe a dedicated person or persons whose responsibility is to look for fires within an established area.
Requirements for fire watch personnel:
- Fire watch personnel should be familiar with facilities and procedures for sounding an alarm in the event of a fire.
- Fire watch personnel should be briefed and understand specifically why the fire watch is being conducted.
- Fire watch personnel should have fire extinguishing equipment readily available and be trained in its use.
- The number of fire watch personnel should be adequate for the square footage of the fire watch area covered.
- Fire watch personnel should not leave his or her post until relieved by another trained fire watch personnel.
- Fire watch observations and tasks:
- No unusual smells
- No smoke in the area
- No unauthorized personnel in the area
- Ensure fire detection and suppression systems are available and not tampered with.
- Walk the entire fire watch area a minimum of once an hour while performing a fire watch.