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A new fire alarm system has recently been installed in our school venue. This was done without consultation with myself (the senior technician) nor the theatre manager, and as such, I have some issues with it. I have tried to raise these with the site fire officer, who is being less than helpful.


In my previous experience, all theatre fire systems can be switched to "performance mode", where a visual alert is issued about 2 minutes before a full alarm event is triggered. The fire officer has suggested that this kind of system is not legal, and when an event is detected, a full alarm event should be triggered, and the building evacuated.


This makes no sense to me, as a full alarm during the middle of a show may be misinterpreted by the audience, or lead to panic, whereas an announcement by the FOH manager would lead to a safer, more orderly evacuation if necessary.


So that I can make my case to the fire officer, I would really appreciate information on fire systems in your venues, and if you are able to clarify the legislation regarding a "pre-alarm" event, I would be very grateful.





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The fire officer has suggested that this kind of system is not legal...

Time to get a fire officer who is up-to-date with current thinking.


From 1st October 2006 the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 comes into effect which requires most premsies to have carried out a fire risk assessment. Fire Certificates will no longer be valid. This applies to educational establishments as well as theatres.


To quote from the published guide for theatres...

2.4 Staged fire alarms

In many premises sounding the fire warning system should trigger the immediate and total evacuation of the building. However, in some large or complex premises this may not be necessary as alternative arrangements may be in place.


These alternative arrangements broadly fall in two groups. Firstly, those people potentially most at risk from a fire, usually those closest to where the alarm was activated, will be immediately evacuated, while others in the building are given an alert signal and will only evacuate if it becomes necessary. This is generally called a phased evacuation and the

initial movement, depending on the layout and configuration of the premises, can be either horizontal or vertical.


The second alternative is for the initial alert signal to be given to certain staff, who then carry out pre-arranged actions to help others to evacuate more easily (see staff alarms in Section 2.3 above). It requires able, fully-trained staff to be available at all times and should not be seen as a simple means of reducing disruption to working practices.


You may wish to have different procedures for performances (where the public are present), during rehearsals and preparation, and out-of-hours, and different procedures for public and non-public areas. In order not to alarm an

audience unnecessarily it may be advisable to replace the Stage 1 audible warning with a visual one so that the Stage 1 alarm is not audible on stage or in the auditorium.


Where staged alarms are being used, disabled people should be alerted on the first stage to give them the maximum time to escape or move to a refuge, and to implement evacuation procedures involving your staff. If you have

well-protected refuges and appropriate management procedures, you may wish to delay the evacuation of non-ambulant people from the auditorium until after the able bodied have left since the total evacuation time may be reduced if the disabled people are likely to impede the speed of the able bodied evacuees.


Similar text appears in the guide for eduactional establishments.


The full text may be downloaded here.


Also useful stuff here.




And, if you want to worry him then ask to see a copy of the schools fire risk assessment (unless he plans to get it done in the next few days!).

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Thanks for the replies. djw981- It's a school fire officer I'm talking about.


Brian - I'll show him the information you've sent me on Staged Alarms. The system outlined there is exactly what I was thinking.


If anyone else works at a venue that uses a staged alarm (particularly where stage 1 is a visual alert), please can you post and let me know - the more examples I have to show him, the more weight it adds to my argument.



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in our system (nightclub but similar principle) a single smoke alarm sets off a sounder by the front door (fire officer / brigade were happy for this to be anywhere that was permanantly manned such as box office) we then have 2 minutes to cancel the alarm (brigade offered 5 minutes, we chose 2 mins)


failure to cancell within 2 minutes, activation of second smoke alarm during 2 minute period or any activation of a breakglass at any point sets off the full alarm throughout the building

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I'm in a similar position, except I'm a student, and the optical smoke detectors in the vicinity of the hall have always been there. And unfortunately, the fire officer refuses to allow any part of the system to be disabled temporarily (whether it's in a chemistry lab with 30 students performing melting point analysis with hot paraffin or the hall with 250 members of the audience watching a concert with haze). So with regards to my lighting design for the Christmas Concert, it might be back to the drawing board :o


...although it isn't as much of a problem as the solid wall they 'installed' across the stage during the holidays :unsure:

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...the fire officer refuses to allow any part of the system to be disabled temporarily ...

The point about staged systems is that they work very well and continue to provide protection as long as

It requires able, fully-trained staff to be available at all times and should not be seen as a simple means of reducing disruption to working practices.
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I service a nightclub in town, where they have a staged system. Stage 1 is triggered by smoke detectors in the dancefloors and bars. This is presented as a beep on each DJ console and Bar, so the staff are aware that Stage 1 has been triggered.


If this is not actioned, within 2 mins, then the system will go to Stage 2.


Any "Break Glass" units in the building, or smoke detectors in the office areas, will trigger the alarm in Stage 2, where all music is muted, house lighting is triggered, and a recorded message advises people "In the interests of Health and Safety, please leave the building via the nearest accessible route. Do not re-enter.... etc. etc...".


Stage 2 also alerts the Fire Brigade.


It is also linked to the intruder alarm, so that if the alarm is set, and therefore the building is unmanned, then all sensors will trigger Stage 2 directly, bypassing Stage 1.


Jay :angry:

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