Friday, July 27, 2012

ZZzzzaaap! Whose Fault is that?

The 2011 NFPA 70 (aka The National Electric Code) introduced new requirements for many items. Among the new items is the clear and concise labeling of electrical panels, meter housings, and disconnects to show the available fault-current.  See NEC Article 110.24 for more information (  These requirements are in addition to the Arc-Flash labeling requirements in 2012 NFPA 70E - Electrical Safety in the Workplace.

To achieve proper labeling, DuraLabel has developed an ANSI Z535 compliant product group that addresses this requirement, and they have guide books to educate you further about it, too.
Go to: to get your free Available Fault-Current Labeling Guide.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Keeping it all together

GRC (Not the Nutrition Guys) is a term commonly used to abbreviate Governance, Risk Management, and Compliance in the safety industry.  It is supposed to be an organizational cohesion that coordinates the efforts of everyone in a business so that guidance (Governance) is uniformly applied to all the sub-groups, and the subgroups share information and resources openly.

School Districts and Universities typically show significant separations between Risk Management (aka insurance claims management), Facility Safety (building and equipment maintenance), Public Safety (security), and personnel safety (actually training staff and students).

Interdepartmental separations occur, too.  Why is it the automotive shop student is given protective eye wear, while the theatre shop student has to provide his own?  The disparities are numerous and sometimes frustrating.  It affects the supply of safety information, safety goods, safety training, and maintenance.  When properly implemented, it answers the question of "Who's going to pay for this?"

For the governing administrators to do their jobs effectively, it is critical that they understand the wide variety of environments under their care.  In the theatre, this means that we have to pull-back the curtain and expose ourselves to the scrutiny of other non-theatre people.  This is hard.  We spend our entire careers trying to create magic and not let anyone outside of the theatre process know how it really works.  This is the exception.  When it comes to safety - everyone has to know and understand.

Don't stand there and tell everybody that your theatre is safe.  It's not.  This blogger sees brand new theatres that are constructed unsafely all of the time, and few new facilities come with any significant amount of operational safety training - everybody just brings their old bad habits with them and go on with little or no thought as to how they might make cultural changes to their work process.

In the 70's, the phone company ran a series of advertisements that said: "To communicate is the beginning of understanding."  The theatre plant is a perfect example of how important this is.  Maintenance workers need to access equipment and understand what is 'special' theatre equipment and know when they can work on it, and what is 'off limits' so that only specially qualified personnel are brought in to service it.  Good examples might be:
  • Dimmer Racks:  The air filters need to be cleaned regularly.  This may require that the power to the dimmer rack be disconnected because there may be live electrical parts within.  Chasing-off the cleaning crew and then not having the filters serviced may cause the dimmers to overheat and malfunction, or even catch fire.  At a minimum, it will shorten the life of the equipment.  This applies to the air filters for the workspaces around the theatre, too.  I've seen clogged air filters and air grilles in follow spotlight rooms, on stages, in dimmer rooms, and on dimmer racks - all preventable if the theatre staff would engage with the maintenance staff.
  • Stage Rigging:  Equipment must be inspected regularly by qualified personnel.  Most janitors and building maintenance crews are NOT trained or experienced enough to perform this task.  The maintenance of the stage rigging falls into this category.  The oil field rigging, construction rigging, or ship rigging backgrounds that some maintenance workers might have may be of some use, but without a knowledge of theatrical systems and how they are used, the resulting 'fixes' may be dangerous, incompatible with the theatrical operational needs, or aesthetically undesirable.
  • Fire Curtain, Smoke Vent, and Fire Doors:  Inspections and maintenance present challenges similar to the Stage Rigging.  Corrections that are not compatible with Fire Codes, Theatre Operations, and the Audience's enjoyment of the presentations must be prevented through the use of knowledgeable people.  Hire a consultant of you need one - this is where your Risk Management Department and or your Safety Office may be able to assist in securing the necessary funding.
Finding a balance with safety equipment provision policies, cost deferrals, and training budgets can only be achieved if the various participants can speak openly about the needs of their buildings and operations.  It also requires that the administrators truly understand and acknowledge just how dangerous a theatre plant is.  They care about bad brakes on buses, broken playground equipment, football helmets, and toxic fumes in the chemistry lab - why should your performing arts venue be any different?

Blogger Norman Marks on the Sustainable Business Forum site has a series of articles that help to explain GRC:

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Protecting Performers AND the Audience

Unruly spectators can pose a risk to themselves, those around them, crew, and performers.  In rowdy rock concerts with drugs and/or alcohol added to the mix, it can be even more unpredictable.  On May 24, 2010, the lead singer for the heavy metal band Lamb of God, was performing in Abaton, a nightclub in Prague, Czech Republic.

In the course of the show, fans were allegedly enticed to come onstage and dive into the audience for a little body surfing.  Things got out of control and one patron went off of the stage backwards and was not caught by the crowd.  He supposedly struck his head on the floor, but was able to get-up and walk out of the club.  He later collapsed, was taken to the hospital, and remained in a comma for several weeks before dying.

The band's promoter said that they had not heard anything about the pending arrest and had booked dates without any knowledge that the performer might be held accountable for the incident.  The lead singer, Blythe, was arrested June 27th, 2012 as he entered the country to promote the bands newest album.  Blythe has been held by the Czech Republic police awaiting a bail bond hearing since entering the country.  He has been charged with manslaughter.  Several web sites have followed the incident and some have posted cell-phone videos from that night's concert.  Depending who you believe, it may have been an accident, or there may have been other people involved or responsible for the circumstances.

It is important that performers can work safely on stage and not worry about being assaulted by guests, and it is incumbent upon venue managers to see that proper controls are placed between artists and fans.
However, it is not just artists and fans that require protection, either -- on October 30th, 2004 there was an incident in a Dallas, Texas nightclub where the lead guitarist Vince Neil (formerly with the rock band MÖTLEY CRÜE was unhappy with the stage monitor mix operator.
After motioning for for more guitar volume during his headlining set at Gilley's Dallas, Neil ran across the stage, leaped onto the monitor mix sound board and swung a leg at sound man Michael Talbert, but missed; then Neil struck him with a "closed fist."

Talbert, who was looking down, saw only the monitor mixing console and Neil's foot next to him before losing consciousness for about 45 seconds after Neil's punch knocked him to the ground.  He said a CT scan revealed that he had suffered a mild concussion. "He tried to kick me and missed, took a swing and connected.  He clocked me pretty good on my eyeball," said Talbert, who works at Gilley's. "He just went cuckoo nutso."  An arrest warrant was later issued for Neil

More information can be found at:

Related Blog Post:

Friday, July 6, 2012

Entertainment Innovation Conference planned for at UNCSA

Officials at the University of North Carolina School of the Arts (UNCSA) have announced the school's third annual Entertainment Innovation Conference (EIC).  Formerly known as the Southeast Regional Entertainment Technology Conference, EIC will be a three-day event hosted by UNCSA's School of Design and Production.  The event runs Thursday, September 6 thru Saturday, September 8, 2012, and will be held at the UNCSA Performing Arts Center in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.

Cirque du Soleil and its corporate partners will lead workshops at EIC covering the use of the cutting-edge technologies in Cirque du Soleil productions.

The conference is open to industry professionals, including students and faculty members of university theatre departments.

The UNCSA Entertainment Innovation Conference is one of several regional conferences highlighting the unique, extensive, and carefully orchestrated technological requirements that go into a Cirque du Soleil production. The conferences are a rare opportunity to get a behind-the-scenes looks at Cirque du Soleil productions - perhaps some of the most complicated entertainment experiences being performed today.

Conference topics include: Stage Properties, Scene Design, Stage Management, Company Management , Show Operations (Health and Safety), Costumes, Props, Multi-Media, Sound/Audio, Automation, Rigging, Artistic/Performance, and Research and Innovation in Performance (CRIP).

For more information about the UNCSA Entertainment Innovation Conference, including registration and hotel information, please visit

C U There!

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Baltimore's abandoned Ambassador Theatre Catches Fire

2012-07-05 Baltimore, Maryland - One of Baltimore's old movie palaces caught fire early Thursday morning, sending flames through the roof of the building.

The fire started about 12:30 a.m. at the site of the Ambassador Theater at 4604 Liberty Heights Avenue.  Fire crews from the city, as well as Baltimore and Anne Arundel counties, battled the blaze and contained it in about 30 minutes.  Nearby residents were concerned that the fire might spread to the gas station on the adjacent property.  No one was injured.  There's currently no word on what caused the 76-year-old theater to catch fire.

The Ambassador Theatre has not been a movie theatre since 1968 and has served in recent years as a church and a Cosmology School.  It's also the sister theatre of the famous Senator Theatre in Baltimore.  The Art Deco building is currently vacant and was put-up for auction sale in July 2009, however, there were no bids submitted for it.

Read more:

Pictures after the fire:

Fire on Stage in Theatre School Severely Damages Building

July 4, 2012 - Arlington, Texas - The Creative Arts School (CATS) had much of their facility damaged or destroyed when a fire broke-out near or on the stage of their facility around 9:00 PM during the Independence Day holiday.  Fortunately, the building was closed for the day and no one was injured.  Passersby noticed the flames and smoke and called the fire department which responded within minutes.  There were no reports of any fire alarm system activation, so the only thing that saved the building from total destruction was the alert citizens that reported the fire.

The initial blaze was more than the fire fighters expected and they had to pull-back from their first attempt to contain the fire until additional equipment arrived.  The area of the building where the fire appeared to be the most intense was the stage.  Three fire teams were summoned to the site before the fire could be quelled.  The exact cause of the fire has not been determined.  News programs showed images of severely smoke and water damaged interior.

The building was formerly a church, and the main performance auditorium was used by CATS as a private school.  CATS has been in this location for 27 of it's 33 years, and was trying to sell the building so they could move to a newer facility.  The fire has forced them to accelerate their plans as they have a summer class with 14 students and a fall class with over 300.  Another non-profit Theatre Company, Theatre Arlington, has offered to let CATS use their facility for their summer classes.