As churches grow into more advanced lighting capabilities, it's not uncommon for them to consider adding a little haze to their room.
What is haze? It’s nothing to fear - haze just creates a fine mist of particles in the air that allow the beams of light from their lighting fixtures to be visible.This allows a lighting tech to create beautiful and dramatic effects, and can be useful for all types and styles of churches.
However, whether you're building a new facility, or desiring to use haze in an existing facility, there are things to be aware of before you beginespecially if you want to remain in the good graces of the local Fire Marshal.
First, I'd like to thank Brandon Pendley of Pendley Productions (Atlanta, GA) and Sam Spangler, a Church Technical Leaders forum participant from Texas, for sharing their knowledge and experience on the subject.
Are there problems with haze?
In short, haze (and fog) can trigger the sensors in your fire alarm system, causing disruption to your services. It can also create a possible hazard to your community as the fire department becomes unavailable to a real emergency while it rushes to your church for a non-existent fire. Look out, because this scenario exposes your church to potential fines from the town.
However, anyone who is paying attention to what other faith communities are doing will note that many churches (and certainly performing arts venues) utilize haze frequently with no issues.
Why is it that some churches can use it without a problem and others cannot?
It all depends on the specific fire alarm sensors installed, as well as how the HVAC system in your facility is designed.
It seems that most fire alarm systems are designed with sensors that detect particulate matter in the air (i.e., smoke), using a beam of light that gets disrupted when anything that seems like smoke passes between the emitter and detector. These sensors may be installed in the room, shooting the beam across the ceiling; and/or, they may be in the return air ductwork for the HVAC system. In these systems, there's an excellent chance that haze will set off the alarm system.
Another issue can lie in how the HVAC system is designed. While many auditoriums have a separate HVAC system so that the air from the auditorium will not be circulated throughout the rest of the facility, others may not be designed in that fashion. If your auditorium HVAC system isn't isolated from the rest of your facility, the air handlers will pull the haze out of your auditorium and send it into other rooms in your building. This has the potential to trigger the alarms in those rooms, or cause alarm should the people in those rooms not be aware of the use of haze in the building.
So, what's a church to do? Here’s Using Haze Safely - Part 2