Author Topic: Oh earthquakes, how I loathe thee...  (Read 3048 times)

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Oh earthquakes, how I loathe thee...
« on: Apr 04, 2010, 09:15 pm »
I thought it was particularly nice that today's major earthquake didn't hit until just as we were about to fade to black at the end of Act I!  And here I thought our biggest worry for this Easter Sunday matinee would be getting a full house!

Any other SoCal-ers get caught unawares by this Earthquake today?  :)


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Re: Oh earthquakes, how I loathe thee...
« Reply #1 on: Apr 04, 2010, 11:11 pm »
I read about it during intermission of my own show, and was grateful that it was in SoCal. Did you lose power? Have to evacuate or cancel?

Our ushers are well trained in managing the audience, but I still don't look forward to my first earthquake-during-a-show experience.


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Re: Oh earthquakes, how I loathe thee...
« Reply #2 on: Apr 05, 2010, 02:57 am »
Amusingly, we just added an earthquake emergency sheet to the SM kit online. I was watching a show from the top three rows (risers, swaying pretty wildly) in a small house, those of us in the top rows were looking around to see if anyone was leaving or the show would stop or...? - and nothing. I glanced above me to discover I was sitting under a leiko with no safety chain, and quickly moved away from the instrument....several people left at intermission.

In looking it up on the earthquake registry site, there were several shakers also in No Cal and Seattle - perhaps the west coast is finally breaking off and falling into the ocean, or floating away and forming our own country...?
« Last Edit: Apr 05, 2010, 05:57 pm by loebtmc »


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Re: Oh earthquakes, how I loathe thee...
« Reply #3 on: Aug 24, 2011, 04:47 pm »
I always check the lights I'm sitting under for safety chains. And have moved to a different seat several times.

So, what goes into an earthquake plan? Aren't most injuries from earthquakes when people rush out of the building and get hit by bricks and debris falling from the building? But the audience can't all fit into the few doorways of a theatre. Should the audience duck and cover in place? I assume you'd close the grand drape to prevent set pieces and props from falling out into the audience. Does anyone have any sample announcements that we could see?


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Re: Oh earthquakes, how I loathe thee...
« Reply #4 on: Aug 24, 2011, 05:21 pm »
When I was an intern at A.C.T. in San Francisco, I held onto important informational handouts and kept them in my reference file. They created an Emergency Response Plan booklet, covering several types of emergencies, the order in which they are handled, etc. I found a separate file with SM Announcements to make for various emergency situations. Unfortunately, there is no specific speech for an earthquake, however, here is the Emergency Plan for earthquakes at the Geary Theater in SF:

Earthquake Procedures (FOH)
1. Stay in the building until the shaking stops.
2. If shaking is severe, take cover and direct patrons to do the same.
3. When it is safe to do so, begin evacuation, if necessary.

In the event of a major earthquake the safest thing to do is remain in the building. If the shaking is severe, take cover in hallways, under tables or desks, or in other structurally secure areas. In the theater, take cover between the seating rows below the level of the seat backs.

Expect disruptions in electrical, phone and water service. Do not use telephones or water unless absolutely required. Remember that fire, not the earthquake itself, causes the most damage and injury. Inspect your area for possible fire hazards or gas leaks, and do not smoke or use an open flame.

Here is the section from the AEA Stage Manager's Packet regarding Earthquake Procedures:

Earthquake Readiness for Shows Touring to or Occurring in Earthquake Zones
An earthquake is a unique natural disaster. It is different from other types of natural disasters
such as tornadoes, hurricanes and thunderstorms because it occurs without warning, usually
accompanied by a series of randomly occurring aftershocks, each with differing strengths and
lasting for an indeterminate lengths of time.

Following an earthquake, electrical power is generally lost and gas leaks may occur.
Communication inside a theatre can be lost, so it is imperative that company members be
apprised of emergency procedures.

The following steps are generalized guidelines, because each theatre is unique in its
construction, management and location within a neighborhood or business district.

Especially if you are unfamiliar with standard earthquake procedures, we urge you to make time
to meet with theatre management as you travel through earthquake country.

While earthquake readiness procedures are ultimately the responsibility of theatre management,
the following are suggested guidelines:

Suggested General Guidelines
• Discuss existing earthquake preparedness plans with the resident house and tech staff; if none
are in place, establish a plan for backstage as well as front of house;
• Find out where landlines will be available to the company manager and stage manager, and
make sure the earthquake kit is well-stocked and up-to-date with enough water, flashlights,
spare batteries, blankets and first aid supplies for the size of your cast and crew;
• With the resident staff, determine the safest areas to take cover during an earthquake; i.e.
make-up tables, worktables, arches etc;
• Review securing rolling stock (wardrobe racks, lighting crates, etc.), and confirm that all
suspended scenic pieces are rigged and hung securely;
• Determine pre-established “safe-refuge” locations backstage and front of house, and nearby
the theater in case an evacuation becomes necessary. Walk to them at the first rehearsal in the
space. Review where, how and with whom to check in from these areas;
• Establish the chain of command in an emergency, including who cancels or stops the show,
and who orders an evacuation;
• Confirm who will handle the audience members and other front-of-house staff, and discuss
methods of communication between backstage and FOH.
• Clarify and rehearse procedures with the crew and assign team leaders for emergency areas.
Crew should place or know where to find the emergency kits, flashlights and water in strategic
areas; i.e. dressing rooms, workshops, backstage, booth, etc.;WWW.ACTORSEQUITY.ORG
• Instruct all company members in earthquake safety. Review duck-and-cover and other basic
procedures and walk the backstage evacuation routes. Remind those with specific medical
needs to keep a supply of required items at the theater during the run;
• Remind the company to avoid open flame (including matches or lighters for cigarettes and
candles) because of probable gas leaks;
• Establish an emergency call-in number to report company status to the production office;
• Provide the company with a check-in number in case of cancelled performances;
• Distribute a central production office emergency number for the company’s family and friends;
• Have company members check with their cell phone carriers about signal strength and
continuity following an earthquake;
• Instruct the company to become familiar with their residential earthquake procedures; in
earthquake territory, phone books print safety information, and motels/hotels have established,
formal routes and procedures;
• Company members with pets should contact the local SPCA for further information.


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Re: Oh earthquakes, how I loathe thee...
« Reply #5 on: Aug 24, 2011, 10:36 pm »
That's actually one of my hobby horses.

Ushers need to be professionals. I get it, tearing tickets and holding doors open isn't rocket science--but that isn't really their job. They're like flight attendants: the customer service stuff is fantastic, but they're really there so that if there's a fire, or someone has a heart attack, or there's an earthquake, or whatever else, the audience isn't left to their own devices.

Far too often, FoH staff are either completely untrained about emergency procedures (I've actually had conversations along the lines of ", when the fire curtain comes down..." "Wait, what's a fire curtain?"), or the bulk of the procedures are shunted off to stage management or venue staff. (And, I mean, yes: the deck captain can, in theory, go stand centre stage with a megaphone and relay instructions to the audience, but if there were actual danger, I daresay a lot of people would have better things to do with their time than than sit patiently in their seats while the nice man dressed all in black tells them not to panic!) This is such a stupid idea, I can't even.



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Re: Oh earthquakes, how I loathe thee...
« Reply #6 on: Aug 25, 2011, 12:04 am »
On_Headset: I guess I am confused as to what you are reacting to. Is it your own comment? Because the excerpt I pulled from the Geary Theater Earthquake Plan was for the FOH staff to talk to the patrons. Not a member of the crew. As I glance through the Plan booklet, all emergency procedures involving evacuation are headed by the House Manager.

And granted, yes, Ushers should be prepared for any kind of emergency and to help deal with the patrons. For those houses that have volunteer ushers, they tend to have a paid staff House Manager who is aware of all emergency procedures. At least that's the case for all theaters I've worked in that haven't had IATSE ushers. (Which have been prepared for anything, at least in my experience with them.)