Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Foaming at the mouth? Well, that's better than on the stage.

Foam materials are used in many different ways on the stage, and many times no forethought is given to the legality, safety, or potential consequences that accompany these choices.  Many foam materials are very combustible, and when they do ignite, they produce an enormous amount of black toxic smoke.  This is smoke so thick that it can kill you in seconds.  Need proof of this threat?  Here are three prime examples of recent fires that were all largely foam fire related:
At left is the pool deck of the Cosmopolitan Hotel in Las Vegas, Nevada.  You can see the fake palm trees that are sculpted from foam burning wildly.  NOTE THE AMOUNT OF BLACK SMOKE BEING PRODUCED.  If this was inside a theatre it would completely fill the stage house and audience chamber.

In each case, the primary source of fuel for the fire was foam based products, and in each case the smoke they produced was thick and deadly.  All too common is the use of foam insulation board like "Foamular" (see below) and "Rmax R-Matte".  This blogger sees it used for props and set walls with no attempt to enclose it or treat it with any fire retardant.  What are these people thinking!?

Also be aware that the NFPA 101 Life Safety Code specifically addresses foam materials uses in scenery and props in Article Flame Retirement Requirements.  If you work in a theatre you should have a copy of this book.  It is fairly inexpensive and full of relevant information for theatre operations - particularly Chapter 13, but other Chapters and Annexes are very important, too.

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