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have a liability question

Discussion in 'New Member Board' started by mtodd2qq, Aug 3, 2017.

  1. BillConnerFASTC

    BillConnerFASTC Well-Known Member Premium Member

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    I think the question is a little larger, and should include not just risks of the chemical but the benefits. I have been on stages on three occasions where there was a curtain which caught fire and did not self extinguish. One was very new and other two had valid certs. Know a lot about two other incidents with new curtains. One was on opening day of a major pac. All cotten curtains, all quartz lights.

    The benefits of flame retardant need to be studied, especially in an era of LED.
     
  2. Tom Andrews

    Tom Andrews Member

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    Flame retardants are just one tool among many to prevent, limit, and put out fires, along with electrical standards, sprinklers, and probably others that don't come to mind immediately. These all work together and overlap each other to create a safer area, let's say theaters for now. A single approach doesn't work sufficiently, according to the groups of people who write codes and standards. People from each industry may claim differently.
     
  3. BillConnerFASTC

    BillConnerFASTC Well-Known Member Premium Member

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    I am aware of how this works, having been active in writing codes and standards for thirty years, having become senior member of the NFPA Assembly Occupancy technical committee, and a long time participant in the ICC codes and standards, and the legacy codes (BOCA, ICBO, SBC) before that. Things change, except that fire retardants have always been of questionable value. Read John Freeman's On the Safeguarding of Life in Theaters from 1904. He did quite a bit of research and testing of flame retardants then (among many features of fire protection) and did not find them of much value. That they are required now is largely due to the efforts of the companies that make, sell, and apply fire retardants. Perhaps the move to LED lighting and away from quartz, since lighting seems to have been the overwhelming leader in the cause of fires onstage will be the catalyst for change.
     
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  4. Tom Andrews

    Tom Andrews Member

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    I'm sure you know how this works. But since we're having this friendly discussion on a public forum, I thought it might be educational for those who don't.

    I'll look over John Freeman's booklet in more detail later. In my quick read, he's reputing claims that fabrics can be effectively 'fire-proof' and he says that if the whole stage area is burning up, the curtains will burn too, so the claim of 'flameproof' and 'fireproof' is false. In his analysis, he writes (pdf p. 55) "the best we can hope to accomplish is to 'flameproof' a fabric so that it will not ignite from a match, an electric spark, or a gas jet; or so that if ignited it will not burst into flame." Which is exactly what flame retardants do! They do not, and do not claim to make curtains 'not burn'. They make the fabrics and curtains not be the main contributor of turning a little fire into a big fire.

    He even develops a hand-held version of his fire test for fabrics to be employed by fire inspectors and others to verify the requirements of the 'new NYC building code', which is pretty cool.

    In the past, the common term 'flameproofing' has been used, which is very misleading. I and others consciously use the term flame retardant, not "-proof".

    I'll read the booklet in more detail, and I want to try to recreate his stove-pipe experiments; more later. In the meantime, I'll stand by the use of flame retardants as being effective at what they are designed and employed to do - which is to retard the spread of fire on the treated fabric.

    I thought electrical shorts and pyro were the leading contributors to "starting" fires on stage? Just my impression. I'm not aware of a compilation or detailed study.
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_nightclub_fires for some general info, not thorough nor complete?
     
  5. Tom Andrews

    Tom Andrews Member

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    Another quote from this booklet, right after my quote above:
    "This much of protection, little and disappointing as it is, is of great value and worth all that a good process costs, if it can be accomplished in practice without injury to fabric or colors; for if we can thus prevent the little flame from quickly spreading, we have removed perhaps nine-tenths of the danger of a fire starting on the stage. . . ." (italics added)

    So, your mechanical engineer from 1905 says proper flame retardant treatment is worth every penny, and removes 90% of the danger of a fire starting.

    He also says that "it falls far short of what many have believed and loudly proclaimed was within easy reach" referring to making fabrics 'fire-proof'. Those claims are not made any more, for maybe 112 years, at least by those of us that deal with flame retardants.
     
  6. BillConnerFASTC

    BillConnerFASTC Well-Known Member Premium Member

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    While I don't really consider night clubs similar to theaters, so far many of the same regulations apply. Many of the deaths in those fires had far more to do with lack or obstructed egress. Many did not have a certificate of occupancy and were more akin to the Oakland fire.

    I agree pyro is a major cause and should not be allowed indoors. It didn't use to be allowed but a pyro manufacturer lobbied the Assembly Committee for the change. I was in the minority and 10 years later 100 dead in Rhode Island. (I looked and may have in boxes upstairs but could not find the name of the pyro manufacturer who lobbied for this change, but I did recognize the name on a box of pyro sitting next to the stage at the Station in a picture taken before the fire.) A third of the fires in that list where the origin was listed were pyro.

    Where wikipedia says "electrical" I do not believe that means "shorts" only but includes lighting, and by looking at many reports, it is lighting, not shorts. Interestingly, the average life of a theatre - it was around 5 years before burning down in the 1800s - grew incredibly with the adoption of the electric light bulb - which was a few years after the Iroquois fire. And I think only 3 of 30 were identified as "electrical" - while 6 of 30 were "arson".

    I simply observe that much non-professional scenery - which may be the majority of scenery in the US - including drops and curtains is not flame retardant at all. The common use of EPS and XPS is more evidence. And I observe that we remove the open flame and open arc lights long ago, and now we remove the fairly hot incandescent lighting that has ignited a number of fires, and smoking materials in buildings is greatly diminished, perhaps reliance on flame retardants should be reviewed, and the hazards weighed.
     
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