When you are setting up the stage design for your worship service, it’s always important to be sure everything is set up for maximum safety. One of the biggest concerns for many churches is the possibility that a fire could break out. When you have multiple instruments, amplifiers, microphones, speakers, lights, and various other devices hooked up in a single stage area, the chances of overheating or starting an electrical fire increase greatly. Add in wall hangings and fabric stage curtains that are seen in many churches, and you have a potential recipe for disaster.
Choosing the right materials for your cables and worship service equipment is one way to prevent a fire, but there are some other precautions you can take. Here are a few basic fire safety tips when considering your stage design.
Your tech materials, like cables and power strips, are where most of the fire hazards come from. It’s important that you don’t overload your building’s breakers, and that you use multiple outlets and power sources. Be sure that your rigging is made of steel or steel wire. Steel is a fireproof material that doesn’t conduct heat like copper or other metals. Additionally, you need to be sure you are using the right size cabling for things like lights and amps. If your wires are too small for the load, or they are damaged from years of use, you could be putting your congregation at risk.
With any material that you are using as décor or for effect on your stage design, it’s always best to be sure it’s a flame retardant material. Items like bamboo or paper screens are not a good idea, unless they have been treated with a flame retardant coating. Anything that is made of wood should also be treated with a fire retardant protective layer.
Fabric that is flame retardant should be watched carefully. Over time, with washing and dust accumulation, the protective element can wear down. There are testers you can use to periodically check the fabric, or you can simply re-treat the fabric as needed. When possible, you may wish to avoid fabric in your scenery entirely, as there is no way to absolutely ensure it won’t catch on fire.
Be aware that flame retardant doesn’t mean it won’t burn. It simply means that it will slow the spread of fire, and that the fire would burn out if not introduced to other, nearby sources of fuel.
As with any building where many people gather, you must have clearly marked exits in case a fire ever breaks out. Many churches have exits located near the front of the sanctuary, to allow those who sit in the front, and those on stage, to exit from that point, while others exit from the main or rear entrance.
Be sure that your entire congregation knows what the fire safety plans are. This can be hard when you have many visitors, so the best course of action is to designate several members to act as emergency leaders, guiding crowds to the proper exits. Fire extinguishers should be handy near the stage, the exits, and near any collection of wires or cables.
By ensuring that you’re using the correct cabling, being careful to treat any scenery with flame retardant coating, and keeping good fire safety habits in place, you can keep your church as safe as possible. None of these measures will affect your daily set up, and they can all be accomplished even on a small budget.
There is also an incredible resource booklet put together by the United States Fire Administration that you can print out by visiting the Church Mutual Insurance website. It includes a detailed checklist of everything that should be checked and properly maintained to prevent a fire as well as a detailed explanation of fire extinguishers and what to do in the event of a fire.
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