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Smoke in schools (and other public venues)


WhiskyFudge

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For the past few year's when it comes to using smoke on school stage's we've generally had the stage area isolated/zone'd out during the performance and tested thoroughly with the fire alarm off line before hand. This method has served us well in the past and has been a method the school's have been happy with.

 

However I've now come across a school who's been told by their fire safety officer (external to the school - I'm assuming either fire brigade or council) that we're using cracked oil (which we're not: Jem K1 Haze fluid) and that permission to use smoke in the venue should have been applied for weeks in advance. It's looking like the show will now happen with out some of it's effects - so be it's not my place to dictate fire reg's.

 

What I would like to know is what the official process for doing this might be and where I can find more out about it. Does anyone have experience of it? I would assume the same process also applies to other public building's as well?

 

Any help would be greatly appreciated as I feel I'm fighting something, I just don't know what or how to get on it's side!

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You are fighting something. Over-zealous and under trained bureaucracy. Big time pain in the rear in schools. Even if you compile the evidence you need to rubbish the 'rule' - there is no guarantee you will be listened to. Experience and knowledge does not equate to power. If you push too hard, they'll brand you with a label that you really don't want. A memo to the real boss, stating you can't do a process that is current in industry because somebody has misunderstood the rules might work - but if the 'expert' has leverage, they'll probably side with them, even if they suspect they're wrong.
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Hmmm...

 

I suspect there may be a bit of jobsworth attitude here, somewhere.

'Weeks in advance' is very much an over-reaction, and to be honest, schools are unlikely to be much different to any other public space.

 

Basically, the majority of smoke detectors work on the principle of smoke particles getting in the way of the sensors inside it, and unless I'm mistaken, these will be triggered by any commonly used smoke generators. So if the venue has them fitted in the auditorium and they can't be isolated then that's the end of the story.

 

If the venue/school CAN isolate the detectors in certain spaces, by means of a properly managed keyswitch/keypad arrangement then as long as the process is handled by persons with full authority to do so, and it's managed properly then there should really be no issues in doing so.

 

However, schools being schools, they aren't like theatres in many ways, and as such do suffer a lot from over-protectionism occasionally. Red tape is also very commonly over-used, which could well explain this excessive notice period you've been quoted.

 

There's not going to be any generic policies out here on the interweb, as each venue should have it's own, pertinent to it's building and activities.

 

I'd be tempted to ask for their written fire safety policy and for the section on use of smoke machines to be highlighted (on the basis that you need to understand what you must do 'next time'.

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Don't the change in the fire regs remove the need to inform the fire officer at the station when using effects that in the past would require approval? As long as there's a suitable fire risk assessment in place.

Exactly. It used to be the case that for any use of things like smoke and pyro you needed to get permission from whoever issued your licence. That went out of the window a few years ago and, unless your local council have retained the right as part of the new style licences, you no longer need to notify.

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Thank-you for your comments. It's good to know there's nothing specific we're doing wrong. In future I intend to take a much more pro-active approach on this issue to try and avoid these problems.

 

The fire safety officer has been convinced we're using sensible products and that isolating the specific sensor's during the show is the way to go. However it was also mentioned that the sensor's could not be re-enabled for 2-3hrs after the show and that someone would need to monitor the area during that time. For obviously reason's this was deemed non-feasible by the school. I see the logic in the idea but think it's possibly a little over cautious. I personally would have thought 30min's of ventilation, a visual check and of course checking that the sensor's are not reporting anything would have been suitable.

 

I've also asked a fireman friend to research this issue a little more, specifically to work out who the fire safety officer for the school is - with the hope that I can have a clear line of communication and understanding with them.

 

Hey ho, onto the next piece of red tape

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The bizzare thing is, use of a haze or fog machine actually has little or nothing to do with fire regs! Except in terms of potential risk - i.e. the machine catching fire, or reducing visability during evacuation. Or of course where it's use will require isolation of all or part of the alarm system.

 

Schools and councils do have some odd 'bye-laws' such as you are experiencing, including requiring permission to use lasers, pyro etc.

I think the smoke thing is a legacy from the days of horrible oil based foggers, favoured by discos :huh: People still think that foggers are harmful, cause people to curl up and die, that sort of thing. think of the coughing brigade ^_^

 

Good luck trying to convince the jobsworths that you aren't going to kill anyone or burn the place to the ground!

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