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Deluge Fire Safety Systems

Discussion in 'General Advice' started by gafftaper, Nov 4, 2007.

  1. gafftaper

    gafftaper Senior Team Senior Team Fight Leukemia

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    The topic of having a deluge system instead of a fire curtain came up in another thread. Working in the educational theater world I've heard of, but never seen one. Can someone explain a little more about how they work? Are they just a fancy sprinkler system? Why would a theater choose one over a fire curtain? Just curious.
     
  2. Charc

    Charc Well-Known Member

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    Step back ladies and gentleman, I'm putting my trivia knowledge to the test:

    My understanding is a fire curtain is a fire curtain (and needs no explanation) while a deluge system is a s*** load of water.

    Unlike normal sprinklers deluge sprinklers are "open". They have no water in their piping. Instead, when activated, the deluge valve opens, filling all the pipes with water, activating all the sprinklers (the kind of things you see in movies). Normally, when sprinklers activate locally, one-by-one it is by an internal heat sensor type deal. So with a deluge system, as soon as it gets tripped, you essentially flood the stage.

    My analysis is that with a deluge system, you're more likely to extinguish or contain a fire, than with a fire curtain alone. A fire curtain alone / with limited sprinkler use would probably protect you from a lot of water damage.

    My personal preference, knowing nothing about fire suppression?

    Deluge system on heat activated detectors. If there were a worse-case-scenario, it would help out a lot. It also eliminates the concern about having scenic elements under the fire curtain, a violation we don't break all the time. :rolleyes:
     
  3. koncept

    koncept Active Member

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    minor hijack,

    i know nothing of fire supression except that it is good...lol
    lets say i have a dry system where the lines are presurized with air, and then one of the heads gets tripped by someone or by heat, does it cause all heads to trip or just the one affected?

    i've always assumed it was like in the movies (frequency for example, he triggers one with a lighter and an areosol can and then they all dump water)
     
  4. Van

    Van CBMod CB Mods Premium Member

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    Well, Close ! but No Cigar!:twisted:

    Charcoldabs is right they are like a sprinkler system, and there are sprinklers that are tripped individually and ones that are "full-on" there are also "Dry" pipe systems, and "wet" pipe systems. Dry Pipe systems, Like we at ART have in our parking garage, rely on air pressure in the sprinkler pipes activate the system. Typically the system maintains 50psi in the pipes, there is a compressor hooked to the pipes to maintain the pressure against slow leaks. When a sprinkler valve is tripped the pressure drops fast enough that the "flapper valve" kicks over on a 6" main, and Viola' instant filling of pipes and lots of water. Usually this inrush over pressure is enough to snap the glass <or whatever other type of fusible link> on the rest of the heads and boom they all go off. Wet pipes are typically what you see when you see a system that let's the heads go off individually.
    Deluge Fire Curtains, well the ones I've seen, are sort of a combination. they typically have a reserve of water stored in the pipe over the stage, and when triggered, it usually kicks over a flapper that then increases the pressure in the system. These are not small little valves either. the average deluge curtain can fill your orchestra pit completely full of water inside of two minutes, and yes that is with the doors in the pit open.
    Deluge curtains are not fire suppression systems, even though they might have that effect, they are fire barriers, just like a traditional fire curtain.
    Disadvantages to a deluge curtain? Well several years ago there was a company who manufactured some faulty valves, they had a habit of tripping all by themselves, and not tripping the fire alarm when they did. One theatre, In Dallas I believe, had the deluge trip at 3 in the morning. By the time folks got there to work the curtain had been pouring water out at a rate of over 2000 gpm for 5 hours. Do the Math. The water bill alone was more than half the theatres annual budget. Not to mention the damage done to the Dressing rooms, prop and costume storage, oh yeah and the dimmer room, all of which were located under the stage area. This happened at several theatres before a class action suit was filed and things got worked out. I know of a story of Peter Pan getting a little out of control and whacking into the deluge curtain, Peter was OK, but the Orchestra, and all those beautiful stringed instruments were not.


    So in conclusion, Yes they are "like" a fancy sprinkler system, one that is on every Performance Enhancing Drug know to man. A well maintained and properly inspected/installed Water Curtain, is a great thing. A faulty one or one which gets "messed-with" is a bad thing.
     
  5. Charc

    Charc Well-Known Member

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    Darn, wrong again.

    My understanding was that a Deluge system was as mentioned, and the system Van described is known as a "Water Curtain". Oh well, can't win 'em all.
     
  6. derekleffew

    derekleffew Resident Curmudgeon Senior Team Premium Member

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    For the best resource and final word, join the NFPA. Gafftaper, maybe this is something your college would pay for? I've never quite reconciled how this organization, which is dedicated to saving lives and property, insists on charging for membership and its literature. But I suppose that's better than wasting my tax dollars for the same purpose.

    I agree in principal with Charc. A fire curtain does nothing to extinguish a fire--only allows the patrons in furs and jewelry to exit the building more safely and more leisurely, while those of us backstage perish in the conflagration. I believe the asbestos is a relic dating back to when theatres were gas-lit, constructed primarily of wood, and burned regularly. A deluge system is much preferred, but a fire curtain won't cause as much damage if deployed erroneously. And a fire curtain can and should be tested regularly. Difficult to thoroughly test a deluge system. Accidental deluges are rare, but do happen, and make for good theatre stories.

    Best is a deluge/sprinkler system, AND a proper active smoke exhaust system, and not just smoke doors on the grid roof to aid in convention currents (though they may play a part of a larger, integrated smoke management system.)

    My roommate just reminded me of the best visual demonstration of smoke traps was in the news footage of the MGM Grand (today Bally's) fire in Las Vegas 11/21/1980. YouTube link. Of course, due to that and other high-profile fires, Las Vegas has some of the most stringent Fire & Building codes, and is therefore the safest place in the world to vacation or hold a convention.:grin:
     
  7. gafftaper

    gafftaper Senior Team Senior Team Fight Leukemia

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    I guess I'm confused why you would put in a sprinkler system in a theater if a deluge system is what you need to stop a fire OR if a sprinkler system is enough, why do you need a deluge system. Is this just an oddity of fire codes?

    Either the sprinkler system works or it doesn't. Why the variety between theaters?
     
  8. Charc

    Charc Well-Known Member

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    Wow, intense fire.

    One thing the guy said in part 2 I found interesting, is they have a bunch of handlines... okay.

    Does any lay person know how to use a handline? Like the kind on a spool, or folded up on one of those racks? I mean, what use are they? If I see a handline, even if it is just an oversized garden hose, I'd walk on by 'till I found a fire extinguisher.

    Is it even possible to get training on them, or are they so simple it's assumed anyone could use them? I'd be worried there'd be a lot of pressure on the line... :-/
     
  9. derekleffew

    derekleffew Resident Curmudgeon Senior Team Premium Member

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    I'm pretty sure the handlines are there for the firefighters' use only. Every fire safety class I've had has stressed If the fire is bigger than you are, don't try to fight it. Your first priority should be to evacuate the building in a calm and orderly fashion.
     
  10. Charc

    Charc Well-Known Member

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    I was thinking about the hand-lines I've seen in europe as well. (Though it may have just been Netherlands / Belgium, and not EU regulation.) They have lines that really do look like garden hoses:

    [​IMG]

    Those, surely, are for general use. Different approaches to fire suppression?

    (The other thing I don't get about the handlines:

    What's the point of them? I mean, by the time FD would arrive, the fire would be way out of hand, wouldn't it? And what's the point in a theatre, with so many circuits around? Does NFPA regulate that dimmers must turn off in the event of a fire? I'd assume so. I also don't follow how my theater has what appears to be two separate sets of egress lighting. One is for power-loss, the other is for the fire panel, I think.
     
  11. avkid

    avkid Not a New User Fight Leukemia

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    As of late hand lines are being removed from commercial buildings because of "liability" concerns.
    Apparently lawsuits outweigh life safety.
     
  12. Charc

    Charc Well-Known Member

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    Really? That's interesting. What specific liability concerns are there?
     
  13. avkid

    avkid Not a New User Fight Leukemia

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    Who knows, I hate ambulance chasing lawyers.
    Go look at the next hotel you stay in, you will probably find an empty hose box.
     
  14. Logos

    Logos Well-Known Member

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    Interesting, they are being removed here as well although only as buildings are brought up to modern code and new sprinkler and alarm systems are brought in.
    All my fire and health and safety training here and in the UK told me that if the fire was more than a waste bin smouldering not to attempt to fight it but simply to evacuate the building.
     
  15. cutlunch

    cutlunch Active Member

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    We also have fire hoses in buildings like your picture. The idea is basicaly that if the fire is small enough and you catch it early enough then the hose should help contain it. Basically if the fire is to big to be put out by this hose you should be long gone. For example a rubbish bin fire can be handled with this hose but if it's a room on fire the heat and smoke will get to you before you could do anything.
    I can see why in America they don't want ordinary people using those really large handlines. The fact is the pressure coming out of those hoses is enough to knock over a person if they are not standing right. If the hose gets loose while it is turned on it will swing widly around and the metal coupling could kill someone if it hit them in the head.
    With the smaller diameter hoses we have most people can use them safely if the fire is not to big.
    I don't think we have deluge curtains in our theatres just fire curtains that can drop in case of a fire. There are smoke detectors, sprinklers etc it depends on how old and how big the theatres are. There is a push on at the moment towards making it law that new private homes have sprinklers systems fitted.
     
  16. sloop

    sloop Member

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    We have both.
    The fire curtain is tripped by heat links or by the old fashioned--cut the rope!

    The deluge curtain is purely manual. pull a handle on a 3" water supply and you get a huge amount of water cascading down from above the proscenium.

    One BAD thing about cascade systems. As the valves age, they can leak. You need to make sure you have weep hole valves that will provide a trickle where you can see it to know if yours are leaking. Ours didn't and all of sudden we had a small stream of water flowing out of the sprinkler outlets one day...... We now have weep valves..
     
  17. koncept

    koncept Active Member

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    im not sure what weep valves are? can you explain a little more like what they are/where they go/etc

    thanks.
     
  18. sloop

    sloop Member

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    The weep valves are small valves that go in the riser pipe that feed the deluge sprinklers. If the main valve leaks, it will fill up until it reaches the weap valves then it will drip out letting you know you have a problem before it fills the pipe up all the way and it comes dripping down from overhead at the proscenium line. that is what happened to us before the little valves were installed..
     
  19. Van

    Van CBMod CB Mods Premium Member

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    Those are really Maudlin valves, they always complain about how nobody likes them, they aren't as pretty as the other valves, and they go through a lot of Kleenex.
     
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  20. SteveB

    SteveB Well-Known Member

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    I'm going to disagree with dereks opinion about deluge being preferable over a fire curtain - IN SOME INSTANCES.

    On a typical proscenium stage with a fly tower, there are 2 primary things that need to happen to prevent a fire from getting out of hand: This all was as explained to me, un-officially by a NYC Fire Dept. Inspector who was recommending either a deluge or improvements to our fire curtain. Note also that the fire prevention systems for non-traditional theaters such as in-the-round, or thrust stages are a completely different issue.

    1) You desire/want to keep the flammable objects on lower levels from having their flames reaching into the fly loft and consuming other flammable objects. Fire and heat want to climb upwards and fly towers are very vulnerable to severe damage during a fire, first at risk is wood scenery and soft goods, next is the moving elements of the rigging system, then the actual steel structural system (think World Trade Center). Thus there is usually present some sort of sprinkler system located above the grid system, next to the roof to dampen and slow the on-stage fire. The second part of the on-stage prevention system is a venting system to remove gases and heat. Venting systems were traditionally a set of "smoke" doors usually located in the fly roof and connected to a mechanical heat sensor (fused link) that melted under heat load and triggered a set(s) of spring loaded doors to open. Our theater had it's older mechanical/spring loaded doors replaced at one point with a similar system connected to a smoke detector. Needless to say, theatrical smoke triggered the roof doors, which is why that smoke detector was removed More recently, roof venting systems are powered fan systems that can vent the gasses (but not as well the heat) and which are usually powered off the emergency generator system (if one is installed). Powered venting systems have a bit of an advantage of not allowing too much air flow (as does the open roof doors) which can actually feed air to the fire, allowing more rapid expansion.

    2) The deluge system is a high powered and very intense curtain of water installed at the proscenium arch, where the traditional mechanical fire curtain was installed. The intent is to put up a wall of water that fire, heat and smoke cannot penetrate.

    It does nothing, however to prevent movement of objects -burning scenic flats, as example, from falling thru the proscenium towards the audience., and that is the main *conceptual* problem with a deluge curtain, and is why there is now growing pressure on JHA's to reconsider using an actual mechanical "Fibertek" over steel frame style fire curtain in place of a deluge, in appropriate theaters having fly towers.

    Some background to this:

    In the mid 70's, as the real estate market in Manhattan - NYC heated up, there was pressure on the owners of theaters containing fly towers to sell their "air rights", I.E. the physical space over the theaters. The NYC building code at the time prevented the usage of air space above theaters with fly towers as it prevented the proper operation of the venting doors.

    Thus alternative fire prevention systems were designed, such as the deluge curtain and powered venting systems, which now allowed the air space over a theater to contain office building. Thus was built the Uris (now the Gershwin) Theater, Marriott Marquis, and others. I believe the test case was the American Place Theater on W 46th street, NYC, which is a proscenium theater with little fly loft. This design forced the architects to create an alternative to a flying fire curtain, and as there was no fly loft, the deluge system was used.

    Unfortunately, the NYC building and fire codes were changed so that the deluge curtain became the ONLY acceptable method of blocking smoke, fire and heat at the proscenium arch.

    Recently, a test case as exemption to NYC applicable codes involved the Biltmore Theater on west 47th street, in NYC. This theater was a former Broadway theater that had fallen into dis-use, with the Manhattan Theater Club taking over in 2003 after a major renovation. Part of the renovation included restoration and upgrades to the fire curtain, in lieu of installing a deluge curtain.

    Steve B.
     
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