Portable vs Installation

RickR

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I don't have the complete story - when do we ever...

A friend reports a city inspector came into a venue while he was hanging some typical stage lights, with clamps and plugs. It seems the inspector thinks this work should be done under a construction permit/license and such as if this was permanently installed gear. Interestingly the inspector says such electrical work can be done by an employee whether licensed or not.

My understanding of NEC/NFPA 70 is that stage lights and most other theatrical equipment is "portable" as indicated by UL listings and the plugs on the ends of the cords. Naturally permanently installed dimmer racks, power outlets and circuit breaker panels are not part of the this issue. Certainly local codes vary and all that, I (and many others) are digging into the details. (Washington state, no city/county issues) If this opinion gets any traction then every touring show, church, school, and event hall are going to have a new set of hoops to jump through.

Have any of you encountered similar opinions? I think we have a rogue inspector but before pontificating too loudly I like to cover my bets. Right now I'm stunned with the implications.
 

JD

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Well, that's a new one. Construction Permit?
The closest thing I can remember is that generally temporary cabling has about a 30 day limit. (An often abused limit.) The concept is that you don't want people using extension cables for any permanent installation as a shortcut. Unless this was a store or museum display that was going to be long term, I think the guy may have been off base.
 

MNicolai

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The topic's come up before. It's not uncommon for a fire marshal to not be familiar with the workings of a theater and be extra cautious in routine inspection. Usually this slice of International Building Code is referenced in rebuttal:

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105.2 Work exempt from permit. Exemptions from permit requirements of this code shall not be deemed to grant authorization for anywork to be done in any manner in violation of the provisions of this code or any other laws or ordinances of this jurisdiction. Permits shall not be required for the following:

8. Temporary motion picture, television and theater stage sets and scenery.


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There's certainly an argument to be made that stage sets and scenery should be built to the same structural integrity level as required by building code, especially when looking at the construction and use of homemade stage platforms and steps. I have yet to see an AHJ bring up building permits and actually enforce that as a requirement, but I have seen AHJ's err on the side of caution and do a once-over before opening night. Primarily I've seen this when there are two-story sets on stage. Single story sets and some light fixtures above typically aren't cause for concern.
 

MNicolai

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If the argument is about an electrical permit rather than a building permit, I think you'll find it's rather unprecedented to require a permit for using UL-listed cord-and-plug equipment in the manner intended by the manufacturer, and in a way that does not alter nor extends beyond the intended use of building's existing electrical infrastructure.
 

gafftapegreenia

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It's hard to understand. Is this a non moveable orchestra shell?


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BillConnerFASTC

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No. Basic Diva shell - on Prodigies.

BTW they reportedly asked ETC if they could tie the fire alarm to the hoist so the shell lowered when fire is detected. ??????

Should have hired a theatre consultant.
 
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derekleffew

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Cobb schools officials said in a released statement Friday they are removing the acoustical “cloud” panels near the ceiling of the stage to meet fire marshal standards. The changes, they say, should not adversely affect sound quality.
If removing the shell ceiling "should not adversely affect sound quality," why was it spec'd, purchased, and installed in the first place?

How does every other non-permanent full shell installation deal with the ceiling obstructing sprinklers?

No. Basic Diva shell - on Prodigies. ...
Basic Diva Shell I get. What does "on Prodigies" mean?
 

STEVETERRY

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New York
I don't have the complete story - when do we ever...

A friend reports a city inspector came into a venue while he was hanging some typical stage lights, with clamps and plugs. It seems the inspector thinks this work should be done under a construction permit/license and such as if this was permanently installed gear. Interestingly the inspector says such electrical work can be done by an employee whether licensed or not.

My understanding of NEC/NFPA 70 is that stage lights and most other theatrical equipment is "portable" as indicated by UL listings and the plugs on the ends of the cords. Naturally permanently installed dimmer racks, power outlets and circuit breaker panels are not part of the this issue. Certainly local codes vary and all that, I (and many others) are digging into the details. (Washington state, no city/county issues) If this opinion gets any traction then every touring show, church, school, and event hall are going to have a new set of hoops to jump through.

Have any of you encountered similar opinions? I think we have a rogue inspector but before pontificating too loudly I like to cover my bets. Right now I'm stunned with the implications.
Certain cities have requirements in this area, but they are few and far between. For instance, New York City requires a licensed electrician to file a permit for the installation of every Broadway show, even though such shows are all portable equipment installed by IATSE stagehands. Cynics among us would suggest that is because NYC is anxious to collect the permit fee. Other than that, I don't know of any permit requirements for portable equipment.

There is certainly no NEC requirement for a permit/license in this case. Article 520 assumes portable equipment installed by qualified personnel.

Finally, we all need to be careful with the use of "temporary" vs. "portable". What we do in the theatre is
portable covered by NEC article 520. Temporary is covered by NEC article 590 and aimed at construction sites, with associated time limits and other requirements that have nothing to do with theatre installations. Use of the word "temporary" with an inspector is fraught with peril, IMHO.

ST
 

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Should have hired a theatre consultant.
Would not surprise me if the late @museav was involved at one point in this.

This was in the school district that I used to teach in. They have a history of doing things a bit weird and a history of inspectors coming in and freaking out. The school I taught in was the performing arts magnet school. My main theatre had a 30'x15' orchestra pit that was 10' deep. They used to have a pit filler for it built by the contractor. AHJ came in 5 years before I got there and had them remove it due to the lack of sprinklers underneath. When I got there I asked if we could get a proper filler or a net over the pit... they said no due the sprinkler thing. So, they are cool with a 10' deep pit with no protection on it... as long as the sprinklers are able to hit the pit.
 

BillConnerFASTC

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Clayton NY 13624
The pit is easily sprinklered with sidewalls.

Other schools in same district have shells, as do many stages across the country.
 

SteveB

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Mar 20, 2004
Location
Brooklyn, NY
Sprinklers in a pit ?.

Oh dear.

We sort of just passed a NYC fire inspection of an update to an updated fire alarm and associated systems. I can state they did not note or ever comment on a pit sprinkler system.
 

Scarrgo

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Dec 2, 2009
Location
Sterling Heights, MI
I work in a High School theater, we have a solid pit cover, and our pit goes about 8' under the stage.

Our pit has sprinklers, for an all cement walls and floors....if there was a fire in the pit, you would go from burning to drowning, as there are no drains in the pit....

Sean...
 

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