Changes to Life Safety Code – Standpipes on Stage


Posted on December 12th, by William R. Conner, FASTC in Theatre Consultants, Theatre Design Article. Comments Off on Changes to Life Safety Code – Standpipes on Stage

It’s often difficult to fit in a hose cabinet backstage.  Life Safety Code (2018) no longer includes the requirement on stages. Photo by Paul Sanow ASTC

It’s often difficult to fit in a hose cabinet backstage. Life Safety Code (2018) no longer includes the requirement on stages.
Photo by Paul Sanow ASTC

The practice and later code requirements to provide stand pipes and with hoses on stages is very old. They seemed to have originated from the factory fire brigade concept, where employees of the company were expected to respond first and fight fire. Despite some assertions to the contrary, they are for occupant fire fighting, and never have been intended for use by the fire service. The time to retire this code requirement is well past, and thankfully the NFPA’s 2018 Life Safety Code (101) will no longer require standpipes on stages. The substantiation for the change, initiated by the committee and not from a public comment stated, ”The variation in equipment and resources is different such that the AHJ should have freedom to make the call on hose requirements. If needed, they should be installed based on NFPA 13″. The discussion was, by my recollection, much broader.

First, this may have made some sense where and when a theatre is professionally staffed by full time, trained theatre technicians. It was not logical for the now predominant school, university, and community theatre stages operated by students, faculty, volunteers, and theatre enthusiasts.

View of another backstage area.  Can you find the hose cabinet?  Photo by Paul Sanow ASTC

View of another backstage area. Can you find the hose cabinet?
Photo by Paul Sanow ASTC

Second, societal changes have diminished the emphasis on protecting property over people not trained and paid to protect property; those occupants should focus only on egress. Other changes in building and fire codes should assure prompt and early notification of occupants and reasonably safe egress. They won’t need to suppress fire along the way.

It’s important to recognize that more than a few local authorities had on their own initiative required stand pipes not be installed or at least the hose be omitted. In some cases, they had in fact required removal of hoses on existing stages.

Supporting that these were never intended for fire service use, fire fighters would generally not depend on a hose they do not maintain themselves in a life or death situation. Further, they would not connect to a stand pipe in the fire compartment – the stage. In high rises (another occupancy requiring stand pipes) they are required to be within the stair tower, separated from the building by a 2 or 3-hour fire resistance rated construction, not within the floor where they are likely to be fighting fire.

This change only affects the Life Safety Code for 2018, where adopted. This is long overdue and hopefully other codes and standards will also revisit and ultimately delete this requirement.

By William R. Conner, FASTC





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