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Where Were When the Lights Went Out?

Discussion in 'Safety' started by TechWeek, Mar 4, 2009.

  1. TechWeek

    TechWeek Member

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    It was opening night of colleges biggest show of the year Little Shop Of Horros. I was serving as stage manager and the house was full of 297 patrons (all paying). We were thirty two minuets into the show and on our 67th cue, i had called the warning cue about thirty seconds earlier and it was time for the cue to go. I said "Cue 67 Go" and the lighting board op hit go and and the whole stage plunged into blackness. I looked at the board and said "What the h##l" thinking they had hit the blackout button, then the lights flickered back on, then off, then i noticed the computer screens for the sound equipment and the board had both powered off. To my surprise the emergency lights hadn't come on either. All communication backstage had been frozen and the phones (which were out as well) had funny odor coming out of it. I looked to the TD who had come into booth and was flicking all emergency breakers in the dark and asked "Where are the usher flashlights?" His response was to take my flash light and say thanks! Meanwhile i had gone back to my kit and grabbed my back-up flashlight (which turned out to be one of two flashlights in the building). I Moved the entire crew to the green room along with the cast (Which had the only functioning back up light in building... go figure). The director who happened to be watching that night had now asked the audience to turn on their cell phones and use the light from them to get to the nearest exit. The house was eventually cleared by cellphone light one glowstick and my two flashlights. I dismissed the crew as was on the phone with the power company, who had earlier said they had no clue what the problem was, told me some bright spark had run his car into a transformer down the street (he was fine). The orchestra (all 15 of them) had also been stuck in the pit so we had to get them out with an A-frame ladder. Wow this getting long. In the end as i was locking the building the lights came back on! I guess the lesson here provide your theater with flashlights (i had required the crew to purchase $1 ones form wal-mart) and check your E-lighting systems they might not work. Sorry if this rambling and if your're still reading good for you.
     
  2. TheDonkey

    TheDonkey Active Member

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    Fun night, eh! :p

    Just out of curiosity, did the paying audience get refunds?

    And aren't you legally supposed to have a fire marshall come check e-lights every couple months/years?
     
  3. avkid

    avkid Not a New User Fight Leukemia

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    Lead acid batteries do not last forever.
    Trust me, I spent about 3 hours replacing every one I could find this summer.
     
  4. TheDonkey

    TheDonkey Active Member

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    Yeah, I understand that, but by fire code, isn't someone supposed to come out and inspect/replace them every couple years?
     
  5. kiwitechgirl

    kiwitechgirl Well-Known Member

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    Surely you're required to check them regularly by law?! Ours get checked every single show day, it's part of the stage manager's pre-show checks (and has to be recorded on the show report, which is a legal document kept for six months); emergency lights in the foyer, auditorium, crossover, stairwells and dressing rooms are checked before each show. Then, the wider building's maintenance managers (we're part of an Arts Centre, one tenant of many) come and check them at least once a month, often more.
     
  6. icewolf08

    icewolf08 CBMod CB Mods

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    I have a good story. Two years ago we were proud to present the US regional theatre premier of Les Miserables. Needless to say we sold out 81 performances and probably could have kept going if we didn't need to start getting ready for the next season. During one of the performances in the heat of the summer the power went out just as Little Cosette started "Castle on a Cloud." Ironically, many of the problems that we had with the show happened when Little Cosette was on stage... Our emergency lighting works, and we made an announcement to the audience that we were going to try to find out what was going on.

    About 15-20 minutes into the blackout we still had not got any info from maintenance. The managing director of the theatre came out at this point and told the audience that we would happily offer refunds if people wanted to leave, but we were going to wait a little longer before we gave up on the power coming back. After about an hour in the dark with no A/C the power finally came back, and we picked up the show where we left off. About 95% of the audience stuck it out and stayed, which I think says a lot about Les Mis.

    We later found out that the whole lower campus had been effected by the power issues. Had something to do with A/C and such and old electrical distribution equipment. We had some other power issues during the run of the show. I think the most severe only fried an encoder in our motion control system.

    What do we take away from issues like this? Front of house staff should have a supply of flashlights for every usher. If you work backstage (SM, ASM, Board Op, etc.) you should also carry a flashlight. It is amazing how often I use my flashlight, I think I use it more than my muti-tool. Also, as has been said, if you have an emergency lighting system and it isn't functioning, get it inspected before you get sued!
     
  7. Dionysus

    Dionysus Well-Known Member

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    Occupation:
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    I know in Canada in any commercial building with emergency lighting you are required to check them on a monthly basis. Also a yearly check of all emergency/fire alarm/sprinkler systems/extinguishers/etc is also mandatory. Very important for safety.

    However the monthly check in many places is only performed as part of the yearly check. This yearly check must be preformed by a licenced technician.

    I have a similar story from when I was back in college. We were doing Sweet Charity and after one of the riggers said Macbeth repeatedly in the catwalk the theatre was plunged into darkness during the elevator scene.

    The audience thought at first it was part of the show. But then the emergency lighting kicked in, and people were told to remain in their seats.

    About ten minutes later the power came back on. The sound system was brought back up, (Computer and console protected by backup supply), the stagelights poped back up as the dimmers got power again... The crew booted the projectors (4) back up.
    However it would seem the projection computer did not take so kindly to the blackout.
     
  8. sk8rsdad

    sk8rsdad Well-Known Member Premium Member Fight Leukemia

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    As a rule, if the power is not restored in a few minutes it will take at least an hour. The power company can resolve many transient issues remotely, but anything else requires rolling a service truck, hence the delay.
     
  9. avkid

    avkid Not a New User Fight Leukemia

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    It's usually up to the facility's maintenance department to repair and periodically test them.
     
  10. PeytonJr

    PeytonJr Active Member

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    That makes a lot of sense, but I never really noticed it until you mentioned it. Thanks!
     
  11. Lightingguy32

    Lightingguy32 Active Member

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    Now about flashlights, I carry about 3 to 4 on a regular basis during the duration of a run of a production. Two of them stay on my body at all times (1 primary, 1 back up) and the other 2 stay in plain site in the booth area along with extra batteries. As for emergency lights, our auditorium was renovated... and the emergency lights weren't added until about a year and a half after the renovation. So before the lights were added, you were in complete darkness and unable to make announcements to the audience (the sound equipment isn't even on a UPS, as is the lighting board (it's not even on a power conditioner). So essentially all of our equipment is considered a ticking time bomb each time the power goes out and spikes back up.
     
  12. Nathaniel

    Nathaniel Member

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