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Fire Safety in Danish Theatres

Reporting performances to the fire department

Specific practical information about each performance must be reported to the fire department, regardless of the size of the performance and whether it is a professional or amateur production. You fill in a form and forward it to the local fire department 3 weekdays before the opening night and it must contain the following information:

  • When the performance takes place
  • When the fire department should come by to examine and test the set (no later than the day before opening night)
  • The number of backdrops and set pieces
  • All extra curtains, if any
  • Which types of building materials have been used for the set
  • When and how the set was fire proofed
  • Other relevant props used in the performance including candles, torches, firearms, artificial smoke, other non-electrical lighting, “bonfires”, Christmas trees, straw, plastic foam and actors smoking tobacco on stage.

Furthermore, you must present the fire department with information that includes:

  • The name of the person installing/ controlling all temporary electrical instalments
  • Temporary changing rooms
  • The need to have a fire guard present
  • Other conditions

The fire department must approve the fire safety for each performance. Restaging of the same performance can be reported on the same application.

Distribution of seating

In venues that seat more than 150 people, you need to observe a number of specific requirements in terms of seating arrangements, emergency exit routes and aisles. In venues seating less than 150 people, the fire department conducts individual assessments of requirements for fire safety.

The maximum number of people permitted in each space is based on the width of the escape routes at the narrowest point (including doors); 1 person equals the need for an escape route of 1 cm.

Positioning of chairs, tables and other inventory – including barriers – in the space must be in accordance with an emergency plan approved by the city council.

The seating plan can be presented as a black and white or coloured drawing. The plan must clearly state all emergency escape routes (including free aisles within the space) in addition to the inventory. If there are changes to the inventory, separate plans must be approved for each setup. A copy of the current plan, including the emergency plan approved by the city council, must be displayed in a location accessible to the audience, in or by the theatre auditorium. Information about the maximum number of people allowed in the space, including a written approval of the emergency plan by the city council, must be clearly stated unless already visible.

Chairs on rows

Chairs on rows must be fixed to the floor or assembled with a least 4 chairs in a group. The structure must be stable and the chairs should not be individually movable. The distance between the rows (measured from back to back) must be at least 80 cm, and the width of each chair must be at least 50 cm (or the middle distance from the middle of one chair to another must be 50 cm when connected).

The number of seats may not surpass 12 in a continuous row in an aisle measuring 1,3m.

The number of consecutive rows may not surpass 20, with aisles measuring 2 m for benches and 1,3 m for linked chairs.

The width of the aisles must include 1cm for each person that has to pass through the aisle to get to the exit.

When setting up chairs and tables an open aisle of at least 1,3 m should be included, corresponding to 1cm per person that has to pass through the aisle to get to the exit.

Chairs, tables and other inventory must be set up in a way that refrains from blocking open aisles and escape routes.

Temporary stages

The stage’s floor must not surpass 35 m. Dispensation can be obtained with the fire department, if assessed justifiable according to fire safety regulations.

Any use of a stage for a performance or similar events, where set and decorations are applied, must be reported to the fire department at the latest 3 weekdays prior to the event. This doesn’t apply to stages without decorations and sets that are used as a stand for lectures, entertainment and the like.

Requirements for materials used for sets and stages

Common European fire classifications were introduced in 2002 to provide basic guidelines in relation to fire technical properties of building materials. The fire departments in Denmark have based their assessments of requirements with regard to technical and set-building conditions on ´The European Fire Classifications (Euroclass).

Specific requirements for decorations and set design in theatres are as follows:

  • When decorating a space and producing clothing, materials may not rank below class K1 10 D-s2,d2, such as a 9 mm chip board with a density of at least 600 kg/m3, a 9 mm wooden fibre board with a density of at least 600 kg/m3 or 9 mm plywood with a density of at least 500 kg/m3.
  • Upholstered furniture must fulfil requirements for combustion in EN 1021-1 (fire test for combustion)
  • Curtain, middle and back drops must be made of materials corresponding with classification D-s2,d2.
  • Set pieces, stage decoration, decorations etc. must be produced from materials equivalent to classification D-s2,d2, such as plasterboard, plywood, hard wood fibre boards etc. Paper, textiles or similar ignitable materials must be fire proofed to correspond with classification D-s2,d2.
  • Foaming or expanded plastic materials and other materials that possess similar fire related qualities are not permitted unless specific conditions have been implemented to ensure ignition, for instance application of a plaster layer of at least 5 mm on all surfaces.
  • Candles and all other forms of open fire are NOT permitted.
  • Spaces under the stage must be kept clean and free from flammable materials.

The fire department can allow for dispensation from the abovementioned regulations if assessed acceptable according to fire safety regulations and when compatible with the Ministry of Labour’s decree on the planning of permanent workplaces.

The training of theatre security staff

The fire department of Copenhagen offers an 8-hour course for theatre staff responsible for security during specific events as wells as the daily running of the theatre. They must be familiar with the laws and stage regulations for theatre security to be able to take care of various installations and situations in specific theatres. Contact Copenhagen Fire Department Training Centre for further details on: +45 3343 1360 or email reu-kb@okf.kk.dk

Source: Emergency services guidelines for the running of hotels etc., care institutions, community spaces, education facilities, day care institutions and shops (2008) and Marcello Francati, Fire Inspector and District Manager, Fire Department of Copenhagen, Prevention Department.

Pyrotechnics

Pyrotechnical items are defined as items containing substances that intend to induce effects such as heat, light, sound, gas, smoke or a combination of the aforementioned, through a burning process that emits heat of energy. Indoor and outdoor stage fireworks fall under the category of pyrotechnical items.

The handling and discharging of certain pyrotechnical items requires qualification in the form of completed training as a stage pyro-technician. The 2-day training course for pyro-technicians is offered in Esbjerg twice a year.

For more information.

Stage fireworks are graded in T1 and T2 categories (EU standards). The T1 category includes low risk fireworks and can be handled without pyro-technician training. The T2 category covers stage fireworks that require handling by persons who are authorized pyro-technicians.

Link to the decree on requirements for fireworks and other pyrotechnical items under Danish law (in Danish). 

Source: Sikkerhedsstyrelsen/ The Danish Safety Technology Authority

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