Discussion in 'News' started by visagegyc, Jan 26, 2011.
Anyone know any details about this?
Google knows more details, and according the articles I found it has nothing to do with a runaway. It's flooding due to burst sprinkler pipes. It's possible the pipes burst while they were raising gear.
From what I read (granted that was limited), it sounded like a runaway batten damaged the sprinkler piping when it hit the grid. Anybody know anything firm?
Edit: This article seems to have pretty detailed info.
Just curious, but if there is a runaway batten, shouldn't it only travel to grid height which the batten is designed to do. So why would there be a sprinkler pipe where a batten is designed to travel on a regular basis?
When you have a runaway, you have a large amount of weight on the arbor coming crashing towards the ground while the pipe takes off towards the grid. Usually, the arbor crashes through its bottom stop on the rail until it hits the floor. This makes the pipe go higher then its usual out trim, usually slamming into the grid. If there is enough force, the lift lines on the pipe can break sending the pipe falling back to the deck. It is pretty common to see sprinkler lines ran US/DS just below the grid. Usually they have more then enough clearances from the out trim of a pipe to the grid. When this run away happened, it must have hit with enough force to break the sprinkler line. If this article was right that this was a fullstage black line that ran, it could have easily had 400# of weight on it, more then enough to break a pipe.
This sounds like a situation where the local crew does not have enough shows come through of this size that require a large amount of rigging. From the looks of things on their site, its not an IA house. Being on a campus it is probably mostly student workers. Someone must have gotten ahead of themselves and pulled the load before the loaders pulled the weight.
At least no one was injured. This could have been massively bad.
This happened at a previous venue I worked at, though not quite as catastrophically. The sprinkler pipes were above normal pipe travel, but below the steel grid. When the out of control pipes got to the top of the travel they had so much inertia they kept going... through the pipes into the grid. The arbor also tore through the floor block, and bottom of the arbor guides and stops which may have contributed.
Rigging FAIL: The most dangerous kind of runaway. | Backstage at BackstageJobs.com | Life behind the scenes…
Someone with the user handle 'student' commented on the Backstage at BackstageJobs link, and they seemed to say that it was a communication issue. Who knows what that could have been, but there should have been a rail manager keeping track of the stage loads and the arbors for a large load-in like this.
Kind of off the main topic, but the first thing that I noticed in one of the pictures of the gear drying out was a PRG Commander Console. What's a Commander doing out with Blue Man? How much moving stuff do they have?
_DSC0179 | Flickr - Photo Sharing!
PRG | Commander
They have a lot of moving stuff. There are a couple of flying screens, as well as a three part high res screen that can move into one unit or track around into three.
That picture from the above album pretty much explains it all. Looks like a house electric. It was probably stripped before the call. Odds are it was loaded before the load was put on the batten. Looks like around 500# of weight hanging on that arbor. Yes, it was a communication issue, one that should have never occurred. Also, there is a good old broom stick in that picture... who knows maybe that thing was holding the load and snapped. There is nothing in this whole collection that spells "accident". Instead, everything is points to the guys on the rail and the guys on the loading rail. I wonder how slacked the purchase line was on the rail before the lock let go. Never should have happened. The venue is going to lose a ton of money on this. I would be surprised if the show does not have to cancel its next stop.
Discussed this briefly today with a colleague of mine who is the Technical Director/Designer in the theatre department there. To comment on several things that have been asked or put forth.
First, in most places code requires the stage sprinkler heads to be below all permanent obstructions, that is, below the walking grid. These places usually require a second set of heads above the grid. Local codes can vary greatly. In this case, like several that I have investigated over the years, the run-a-way batten strikes one of the sprinkler heads, the weakest part, and snaps it off or open. In many systems the sudden release of pressure will open up the other heads in the same zone. As mentioned earlier, the batten is moving very fast by the time it reaches the top, 30 to 40 mph at least, depending on the height of the grid and the amount of overweight. Also as mentioned and as the picture shows, the arbor blows through the wooden stop strip and the angle iron supporting it, allowing an extra 18" - 24" of travel.
Now the real failure here was human error. An error in method, training and supervision. First, the batten in question was an electric, lots of weight. Second, the standard method in that house to change out a batten was to drop the batten to the floor working height and have the floor hands start stripping the pipe while the gallery crew starts stripping the weight, or, and here's a biggie, if the batten is to be reloaded, as in today's case, the weight is not stripped, several stage hands hang or lean on the pipe until enough equipment is rehung to balance out the pipe. While this is a fast and time saving technique, it is very unsafe and against all good rigging practice and common sense. It should not be taught, used or allowed. In today's accident, either the floor hands did not put body weight on the pipe or the gallery crew didn't know they were to unload that arbor. The result is obvious, once the batten has moved as little as a foot, it is too late. The weight and inertia have already taken over and it can not be stopped. The good news is the batten did not break and the batten attachments held, the arbor had spreader plates ( I can count at least two in the photo) and did not spill the weights which would have made things much worse. I have investigated accidents where the weights did spill and then the pipe is the heavy thing and comes crashing back down, just like Paddy and the barrel of bricks.
If I find out any additional info that is not general knowledge, I'll update.
Excellent information Mike. I am an arena guy so I have little experience with fly systems. I always with interest any discussion pertaining to flys and how to use them. I know some good fly guys in DC and want to learn more when possible.
Important lessons here for all of us. Very fortunate no one was injured.
Interesting to read the spin of some of the various media; a few of the articles really downplay the amount of water that must have been gushing from those heads. I had a similar experience at my last facility when the lobby system was set off by a plumber who caught his vest on one sprinkler head and popped it; there were thousands of gallons of rusty water in the brand new lobby in about 2 minutes. Fun fact: firemen carry wet-vacs on the pump truck!
One point I failed to mention in my earlier post. There are ways to help secure a line set that you know is going to be out of balance for a short time as the floor crew and the gallery crew work to stay even. Due to TOS I will name but not spell out or explain methods that are possibly questionable. Methods range from the "broomstick" trick, to the "Uncle Buddy" that is accepted in some but not all circles, to the one standard that seems acceptable by everyone and that is the "Stopper Hitch". There are a number of knots that are used, the "Prussic Knot" being the most widespread acceptable one. Basically a stopper hitch is a small diameter rope, 1/4" or 3/8" usually (but up to 1/2") diameter, tied to the locking rail then to the purchase line in one of several types of rolling hitches, timber hitches, Prussic knots, etc. effectively preventing the purchase line from moving, even if the out of balance condition exceeds the roughly 50# out of balance condition that most rope locks are designed to handle. In spite of the broom handle visible in the photo, it would appear obvious that none of these methods of "locking off" was being used in this case. I still do not condone the loading technique described to me, but the simple application of a stopper hitch at the rail might have prevented this accident.
I find it rather ironic that it was a PLUMBER who set it off. Of all people!
This whole incident should say a lot of things. If it really was communication error, then people need to really pay more attention. If it was that they used "human Ballast" after removing lights, then that is not a good method, no matter how many people you have on it. And, to me it doesn't seem like a good ideal in the first place, to many things can go wrong. If it was that a person tried to fly it out and didn't know that the weight wasn't removed, then that says that you need to VERY clearly mark (And possibly guard) which linesets can't be used at that time.
I want to point out that EVERYONE should be using one of these techniques during loading. However, NONE OF THEM offer a 100% guarantee against a runaway. The simple fact is when you get more than about 50 pounds out of weight the danger level goes way up. You get several hundred pounds out of weight like this story and all bets are off for safety. Even an uncle buddy or a stopper hitch can fail.
Students, yes professional rigging crews in pro houses take short cuts and you may learn those tricks someday too, but those tricks come with years of knowledge and experience of what can go wrong and how to avoid it. You are not a pro rigger yet, you are still learning. Learn to do the job safe and stay alive. For now your rule should be never take more than two instruments off without removing bricks or adding instruments back. Always keep it under 50lbs out of weight. Yes this means more work, and you'll have to think about your job a bit. But a little extra work is much less of a hassle than going to funerals and paying thousands of dollars in repair bills.
Back to the building itself, I don't know anything about the building so I'm purely speculating here, but water is a killer on theaters. Repairs can get VERY expensive, really fast. Repairs could include replacing part or all of the floor, repairing the structure under the stage, repairs to the rigging system, repairs to the pit/trap room or other rooms possibly located below the stage, of course wet drywall has to go, electronic equipment is probably toast, fire retardant in curtains is gone as soon as it gets wet so the curtains will need replacing or retreating. This little mistake could easily total $500,000 or more really quick and shut down the theater form months while things are repaired.
Just an example of the problems sprinkler heads going off can cause, on a church project in which I was involved the painters were touching up the ceiling in the room off stage where all the electronics of the Yamaha PM1D mixer, the Aviom system, the wireless in-ear transmitters and the monitor amps were located when they apparently 'bumped' the sprinkler head over the racks and set it off. From what those there at the time tell me there was about 4" of standing water in the room before they could get it shut off.
This occurred just a couple of days before first use of the renovated Sanctuary, but since someone was smart enough to reach in with a wood pole and hit the main power switch and the racks were on top of a 2x4 riser base, with some careful drying out everything actually worked for the first service. However, it could not be warrantied so it was all replaced under the painter's insurance, which also had to be for the labor to reinstall it as well as to reconfigure and test everything. The insurance aspect and who was paying for what apparently dragged on for months. And that was just a single sprinkler head going off, not multiple heads or a head broken off.
More at UPDATED: Rigging FAIL: The most dangerous kind of runaway. | Backstage at BackstageJobs.com | Life behind the scenes…, including this first-hand account.
(If the student doesn't know how to spell "batten" correctly, can he be trusted to run the fly system? Or give an accurate account of events that transpired?)
I dont know, that is probably one of the most common spelling mistakes with this kind of stuff, especially if you have not seen it written a lot, or if your in a hurry and writing a lot.
For anyone interested, the venue tech specs can be found here. It's a single-purchase system.
He also referred to the sprinkler pipe location (directly below the grid) as an inherent design flaw and made the following comments regarding the people in charge:
Safety is the responsibility of everyone on site, operators and employers. Operators who are qualified enough for the task at hand should have seen the clear tactical error in putting 29 bricks above pipe weight on an empty line set, and any member of the venue staff who sees an error like that should not hesitate to tell the people in charge (even if it includes the person who signs their paychecks) that something is a bad idea. That said, the people at the mid-rail probably didn't know what was (or was not) attached to the batten they were loading.
The call from a member of the BMG tour to load that amount of weight onto an empty line set never should have been made. Anyone working the in that thought to themselves, "Why are we putting 29 bricks on an empty batten?" is also partially responsible for this incident, but I wouldn't count on the average deck hand to be paying attention to the calls for weight that are being made or to be thinking of the effects of those calls. However, I'm surprised there was not a go-between between the BMG staff and the loaders on the rail. At larger venues, this may not be the case, but for the one-semi-truck tours that have come through the local roadhouses, there's usually a very capable member of the venue staff who makes the calls to the rail. Anyone on the tour has to talk to that person to get a call made to the rail. A person in that position would've been in charge of preventing the tour from damaging the facilities or performing unsafe operations with the rigging.
As was pointed out in the comments of that article, even had the rope lock not failed after the dowel snapped that was twisted into the purchase line, the next step was for someone to remove that dowel, open the rope lock, and start muscling around a seriously out-of-weight arbor. A couple guys hopping on that purchase line would've either had the flesh burned off the palms of their hands or they would have been sent sailing into the air.
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