Author Topic: Fog/Haze that wont set off a very sensitive smoke alarm  (Read 40866 times)

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Dana_SM

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I am working in a small (about 100 seat) theatre with very senestive smoke alarms. They have gone off when we tried to use a Fog/Haze effect before.

Does anyone have a suggestion for an alternative way to get this effect that wont be an issue with smoke alarms.

Thanks!

kiwitechgirl

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Re: Fog/Haze that wont set off a very sensitive smoke alarm
« Reply #1 on: Oct 14, 2009, 07:10 pm »
Is there no way you can legally get the smoke alarms isolated for the duration of the show?  Our theatre is in a historic building, and so we're subject to all kinds of extra rules and regulations, but we are allowed to isolate the smoke alarms within the theatre - it's on a half-hour timer in the control room and the operator switches it back on when it clicks off.  I don't know of any fog or haze machine that won't set smoke alarms off.  Don't even think about doing anything dodgy and illegal to isolate the alarms if you're not allowed to though!

KMC

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Re: Fog/Haze that wont set off a very sensitive smoke alarm
« Reply #2 on: Oct 14, 2009, 07:11 pm »
"Smoke" detectors actually detect particles in the air.  If the particles per million exceed a certain number, the detector is triggered.

Along this line, if you're using a smoke/haze effect you can try to dial back the amount of smoke/haze so it doesn't exceed that threshold, point the machines in a different direction to steer them to a less sensitive area, or some combination of these two.  

Is the theatre part of a larger building?  If there is some kind of larger system that alerts building security or the fire department as opposed to simply setting off an alarm, you may be able to give them the detector numbers that are near the machines and say "between xx and zz minutes we will be using a smoke effect" so they understand it is not a fire situation.  In this case you'd have to call them every night to confirm.

Kiwi's option of temporarily disabling the detectors is also viable if arranged through the proper channels, I have seen this before as well.

You can also explore a dry ice smoke effect.  This will not be the same as a smoke/haze machine as the condensation is heavier than air and will sink to the floor as opposed to dissipating evenly, so it will be a different effect, however may still work depending on what you're looking for.
« Last Edit: Oct 14, 2009, 07:13 pm by kmc307 »
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stephaleph

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Re: Fog/Haze that wont set off a very sensitive smoke alarm
« Reply #3 on: Oct 14, 2009, 11:11 pm »
I'd say kmc307 has got the answers here. Dry Ice is a great option but I'm not sure how easy it is to obtain except if you get it from a restaurant or deli that ships or orders meat.

Just some ideas:
-You might want to try would be suspending the fog machines a little and pointing them down. Play with the angle because you don't want the fog bouncing back up and defeating the purpose.
-If it's not illegal to stop the smoke alarms for the show: If you have cheap smoke alarms not on a grid or you can't get them turned off each night- just cover it with a plastic bag. You may have already thought of this but just thought I'd mention it :p
-If you can manage the smoke on a lower setting then put some deflectors by the smoke alarm (again if that's not illegal!) that would only block the one direction. That way any actually smoke from a fire would still be noticed but jut not yours!
-If you just use less smoke then illuminate it slightly with lights at the furthest downstage point it might end up looking like more smoke is there.

hope the input helps :p

KMC

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Re: Fog/Haze that wont set off a very sensitive smoke alarm
« Reply #4 on: Oct 14, 2009, 11:21 pm »

-If it's not illegal to stop the smoke alarms for the show: If you have cheap smoke alarms not on a grid or you can't get them turned off each night- just cover it with a plastic bag. You may have already thought of this but just thought I'd mention it :p

I don't mean to step on toes, but you won't find a jurisdiction in North America that permits covering smoke detectors with anything.

Don't do this.
Get action. Do things; be sane; don’t fritter away your time; create, act, take a place wherever you are and be somebody; get action. -T. Roosevelt

Mac Calder

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Re: Fog/Haze that wont set off a very sensitive smoke alarm
« Reply #5 on: Oct 15, 2009, 04:09 am »
There are 2 basic classes of smoke detectors, each with 2 main sub-classes.

1: Particle Detection - the two main types are  Photo-electric and Ionisation. Ionisation are the most common - they are the sort found in the roof of most homes, and most of the detectors tied into fire control boards are ionisation. Smoke machines of any description will set these off once the air reaches a certain saturation of particles (generally not overly high). Photo-electric are also known as beam detectors. They generally work by a laser beam being shot at a detector, and as particles occlude the beam, the detector triggers - haze is generally fairly safe, but smoke machines will eventually set them off.

2: Heat based detectors - the two classes are Rate of Rise and Set-point. It is all in the name really - RoR detectors will trigger when the temperature in the room raises faster than a set rate. Set-point detectors will go off when a certain temperature is set. A classic example of a set-point system is the fire sprinkler system. Neither of these will be set off by smoke machines or hazers.

If you have any type 1 detectors - issolation is the solution. Covering with plastic cups/condoms/plastic bags is compromising the installed fire-supression system and should an emergency occur will often involve lawsuits for all involved. 99% of systems will have some form of issolation available at the fire control pannel. Talk to the venue manager about it. If it is not available, your solution is simple. No haze.

stephaleph

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Re: Fog/Haze that wont set off a very sensitive smoke alarm
« Reply #6 on: Oct 15, 2009, 03:04 pm »
Oh no, definitely don't cover it if it's illegal,  :o that's why I said "ideas". I would definitely check on any of this stuff before doing it! My bad wasn't trying to suggest you to break laws! I'm just throwing ideas out there. I agree with Mac on asking the building manager. But yea, the fire department is really strict and for good reason, you definitely don't want anyone getting hurt in your space!

Make sure you take directions seriously too, there was an issue with exit signs in our Theatre. They signs were being blocked by the curtains so the fire department wanted the stage to change or the curtains to be moved (black box theatre). Someone had the idea to make their own Exit Signs that could just be moved to the doorways being used and that could be seeen. We asked if we could make our own sign and put it by the doors and the fire department said it was fine. But! Then there was trouble because it wasn't battery powered. Which that's a pretty vital element that someone should have noticed!- however, moral of the story don't mess with the fire department cause they are hawks!

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Re: Fog/Haze that wont set off a very sensitive smoke alarm
« Reply #7 on: Oct 15, 2009, 11:14 pm »
Dry Ice is a great option but I'm not sure how easy it is to obtain except if you get it from a restaurant or deli that ships or orders meat.
Most welding supply houses have dry ice.
Philip LaDue
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IATSE Local #21 Newark, NJ

cprted

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Re: Fog/Haze that wont set off a very sensitive smoke alarm
« Reply #8 on: Oct 15, 2009, 11:39 pm »

-If it's not illegal to stop the smoke alarms for the show: If you have cheap smoke alarms not on a grid or you can't get them turned off each night- just cover it with a plastic bag. You may have already thought of this but just thought I'd mention it :p

I don't mean to step on toes, but you won't find a jurisdiction in North America that permits covering smoke detectors with anything.

Don't do this.
My theatre has written authorization from our fire marshal to cover the three particle detectors in the up stage hallway (no particle detectors in the auditorium) with small orange cones that are designed to clip into our detectors during shows that use smoke or haze. 

To the OP, have you looked at using a water based fluid?  While not foolproof, particle detectors seem to be much more tolerant when it comes to a water based haze.

kiwitechgirl

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Re: Fog/Haze that wont set off a very sensitive smoke alarm
« Reply #9 on: Oct 15, 2009, 11:54 pm »
To the OP, have you looked at using a water based fluid?  While not foolproof, particle detectors seem to be much more tolerant when it comes to a water based haze.

Really?!  We've found that our oil cracker causes far fewer problems than our water based hazer - we can't isolate the detectors in our dock area, and so we have a heavy curtain which supposedly remains pulled across during shows.  With the water based hazer we had to be super-vigilant about it, because we had a few false alarms caused by it, but since switching to the cracker we've found that even when the dock area is quite hazy, the alarms don't tend to trigger - someone said it was to do with the cracker producing finer particles than a water based hazer?

ScoobyChitlin

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Re: Fog/Haze that wont set off a very sensitive smoke alarm
« Reply #10 on: Oct 19, 2009, 11:47 am »
In the community theatre I used to work at in a small town we were able to talk to the fire dept to temporarily turn off all smoke alarms for the duration of the show. Also, in some off the larger theatres I've worked at there is a fog and haze that is food particle based so it doesn't choke people or set off many alarms. It does however stink.. Bad.
It's kind of fun to do the impossible. ~ Walt Disney

centaura

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Re: Fog/Haze that wont set off a very sensitive smoke alarm
« Reply #11 on: Oct 19, 2009, 09:18 pm »
In my venue we are able to bypass individual units through our fire alarm panel, which we are able to do during performances.  Another thing is that we're able to put the whole system into test mode if necessary.  The caveat to putting the whole system into test is that, if that were needed during a show, we would need a "fire watch" - one or more fire-fighters or fire marshalls who are on hand backstage during the performance.

Other than that, dry ice is a substitute though it does have a different look/effect.  Dry ice can be obtained at dry ice companies - look it up in your phone book.  I order tons of the stuff for shows every year, pellet and block.

Another option is CO2 - a lot of tours use that for effects onstage.  Again, its a different look than a hazer - but I believe its less sensitive for particle detectors.

Or, one last idea - seeing if you can get permission to change out the problematic detectors for heat detectors.  They did that at my venue after the renovation, when they realized that the particle detectors were causing issues.  Now I'm just down to my three main level dressing rooms having particle detectors, which as long as I keep the door to the stage closed I don't typically have issues with.

-Centaura

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Re: Fog/Haze that wont set off a very sensitive smoke alarm
« Reply #12 on: Oct 19, 2009, 11:22 pm »
Another thing is that we're able to put the whole system into test mode if necessary.  The caveat to putting the whole system into test is that, if that were needed during a show, we would need a "fire watch" - one or more fire-fighters or fire marshalls who are on hand backstage during the performance.

I don't know if it was test mode that we used, but when I was apart of a production of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat we had a couple dozen live flames on stage and used a couple other small special effects of that sort. I remember every night we had a firefighter in the audience in a specific seat for the 'fire watch' purpose. I can't specifically remember if we had tied up the fire alarm system every night or if our particular area/venue simply required fire protection services with open flame on stage.
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KMC

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Re: Fog/Haze that wont set off a very sensitive smoke alarm
« Reply #13 on: Oct 20, 2009, 02:21 am »
Another thing is that we're able to put the whole system into test mode if necessary.  The caveat to putting the whole system into test is that, if that were needed during a show, we would need a "fire watch" - one or more fire-fighters or fire marshalls who are on hand backstage during the performance.

I don't know if it was test mode that we used, but when I was apart of a production of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat we had a couple dozen live flames on stage and used a couple other small special effects of that sort. I remember every night we had a firefighter in the audience in a specific seat for the 'fire watch' purpose. I can't specifically remember if we had tied up the fire alarm system every night or if our particular area/venue simply required fire protection services with open flame on stage.

Open flame is a totally different ballgame than smoke/haze.  You'll almost always need to have a fire watch when there's an open flame involved. 
Get action. Do things; be sane; don’t fritter away your time; create, act, take a place wherever you are and be somebody; get action. -T. Roosevelt

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