This article continues to examine the safety precautions necessary for a safe and enjoyable presentation when using stage pyrotechnics
Productions are often staged within the main sanctuary of the church. This creates some special hazards, as the main focus is normal worship services, and not productions using pyrotechnics. You need to examine the fire retardant characteristics of the space.
Often within the sanctuary physical space, you have carpeted areas, curtains, altar cloths, and other flammable materials. The safest avenue is the removal of these items. If you are unable to remove flammable materials from the area, you may need to treat them with fire retardant. Check with your local fire authority, as they may require you to provide a certificate of fire retardancy issued by a professional application firm. If you are not required to have a professional company do your fire retardant application, you can take this on yourself. There are several fire retardant products on the market, though there is very rarely one flame retardant that will work for all your materials. One product is ROSCO FLAMEX, which is available in several different formulas for the treatment of different types of fabric, wood, and other materials from theatrical supply dealers around the world, and information on which kind of FLAMEX to use and how to apply is available at www.rosco.com. Other commercial brands may include ‘FireShield’, ‘Flame Retardant Spray’, ‘Flame Stop’, ‘Flamebusters’, and others. Always carefully read the instructions and other information for proper application and use. An internet search under ‘flame retardant spray’ turns up a lot of information.
Flooring must be examined very carefully. Carpet is not considered a safe floor covering when dealing with pyrotechnics. While most carpets are synthetic, and will not readily flame up, they will melt, and can produce noxious odors and fumes when burned, melted, or smoldering. If you cannot remove the carpet (not likely that the altar guild or board of directors will let you anyway), you will need to take care to cover the carpet around pyrotechnic devices with fire retardant materials such as rubber matting or metal plates, and an application of fire retardant is recommended. Platforms and risers need to be carefully examined to be sure that they are in good repair, and do not present areas that could easily catch fire, such as splintered or rotten wood. You may need to paint the risers with paint that has a flame retardant additive. If your choir risers have carpet on the top of the steps, you may need to flame retard this carpet. This includes the bottom and the top of the platforms!
Cement, dirt, and sand are normally considered inherently flame retardant, but only if there is a good layer of dirt or sand (6 inches or more). Linoleum will not usually flame up, but again, it will melt, and adhesives under the linoleum may be quite flammable. Care should be taken to surround pyrotechnic devices with rubber mats or metal plates. If your floor is above another room, you need to carefully look at the cracks and joins, and see if there is any chance of a spark or other glowing particle falling into and through the crack. Stage floors are notorious for having sawdust in them, so do not assume that the crack is not an issue, and that there is not flammable material under the flooring. Often you can tape over the seams in the floor with gaffers tape for a quick fix, but filling the cracks with joint compound, caulk, or other filling compounds and painting with flame retardant paint is recommended for ongoing productions and regular maintenance.
Painted plaster and dry walled interior surfaces are normally considered to be more flame retardant than those covered in wallpaper, paneling, or other materials . You should not place pyrotechnics close to these surfaces, but if you have to, you should again protect the surfaces with flame retardant paint or flame retardant barriers. Be prepared to remove soot and scorch marks and possibly repaint/recover if you place pyrotechnics close to walls.
Ceilings need the same amount of examination. While they should not be in risk of coming into contact with sparks or other glowing particles, caution needs to be taken. Check that the ceiling is in good repair. Overhead structures such as catwalks, beams, and lighting fixtures may need to have dust, lint, cobwebs, and other material cleaned out. Stage lighting instruments are not usually affected by the intermittent use of pyro, but if you use pyrotechnics on a regular basis, you will need to clean your stage fixtures more often.
Scenery is often constructed from light building materials that catch fire easily. Not only should the front of the scenery be painted with flame retardant paint, or sprayed with flame retardant after final painting, the back, top, bottom and sides of the scenery units should be treated as well. Backdrops can often be sprayed from the back, and the flame retardant will absorb through to the front of the backdrop. There are retardants available specifically made for use with hay and other plant fibers.
The production space as a whole needs to be examined for what may be flammable, and what can be done to make it fire retardant. Remember that few materials are actually FLAME PROOF. Most of these measures delay or slow down flame spread, but may not extinguish them. Careful observation during productions is also key to a safe show, with your pyrotechnic operator or assistants checking stage areas after pyrotechnic cues for any residual heat, smoke, or flame. The use of fire retardants is a logical “before-the-fact” step that should be taken. Remember, smoke alarms and sprinklers cannot prevent the fire, but fire retardants in most cases can prevent and/or slow the spread of fire, which can greatly reduce loss of life and property.
Pyrotechnics, costumes, and the people in them will be the next topic of safely using pyrotechnics for worship.