A couple of weeks ago I published a post about concerts that were held in Oklahoma City, where the concert attendees and band members were inside of plastic “bubbles” during the show. I commented that I would love to know what the local fire marshal had to say about the plan, and when I shared the link on Twitter, I heard from the OKC fire department. I spoke with the fire marshal’s office, and we agreed that the plastic bubbles could have a disastrous impact on egress during an emergency.
The challenge is that when a concert hall or other venue does not require a special permit for a particular event, there may not be a requirement for the facility to notify the fire department or to get the egress plan approved. This makes sense when we’re talking about a regular concert or theater production – the emergency plan is already in place. But there’s a fine line between a typical concert and one where the concertgoers are in plastic bubbles, and something like this could easily slip through the cracks.
When I heard about the concert, I thought perhaps it should be treated like a special amusement situation, but technically it doesn’t fit the IBC/IFC definition: SPECIAL AMUSEMENT BUILDING. A building that is temporary, permanent or mobile that contains a device or system that conveys passengers or provides a walkway along, around or over a course in any direction as a form of amusement arranged so that the egress path is not readily apparent due to visual or audio distractions or an intentionally confounded egress path, or is not readily available because of the mode of conveyance through the building or structure.
Maybe we need a code change proposal to cover events like the “space bubbles” concerts. In the meantime, I look forward to hearing from the OKC fire marshal’s office regarding their plan to notify event venues of the requirements for events where egress is affected.
While doing some research about special amusements and the applicable code requirements, I was reminded that the 37th anniversary of a special amusements tragedy recently passed. The video below is a short summary of what happened at the Six Flags Haunted Castle in Jackson Township, New Jersey, where 8 teenagers were killed. A story in NFPA Journal also describes the fire and the aftermath, as well as the resulting code changes.
By studying and learning from these tragedies, we can help keep them from happening again in the future.
Thanks to Ross Nudelman of Allegion for the link to this video series!