A recurring theme that happens in the church, particularly in the sanctuary/auditorium, has to do with adherence to safety standards.
I would say that a large percentage of churches have safety issues in their main meeting room, and are probably completely unaware of it.
There are safety standards for theatrical environments that, if you haven't had some formal training in that world, you'd be completely unaware of it. And yes, from the perspective of this article, all church sanctuaries and auditoriums are theatrical spaces. So, let's spend the next couple articles to touch on some of these things.
Softgoods and Fire Codes
Many churches like to make use of softgoods on their stage. Softgoods is simply another name for fabrics, used as a way to dress up the stage by hanging or draping them as backdrops and scenic elements. They can add a great deal of visual beauty to the environment, especially when lit nicely.
Common practice is to place light fixtures on the floor right in front or behind the fabrics, which provides a very dramatic look by highlighting the folds and creases in the material.
However, this can also be a fire hazard. Traditional theatrical fixtures are VERY hot, and if the fabric comes in contact with the fixture, you have a high risk of a fire starting. Even LED fixtures generate a decent amount of heat. This is why any fabrics that are used in a theatrical way such as this are required to be treated with a fire-retardant chemical.
This is something that you can do yourself, or you can purchase your fabrics from a theatrical fabric provider such as Rose Brand.
If you are running cables across the floor, you are creating a tripping hazard. While people on stage would be aware of cables and would be used to navigating around them, cables placed out in the seating area are another issue entirely.
Cables laid where people walk should always be taped down in as flat a way as possible, and you should limit cable runs that go across traffic patterns.
And don't use duct tape to tape down your cables. You'll end up with a horrible sticky mess on your cables and on your floor. There's a type of tape called Gaffer's Tape made specifically for this purpose that holds cables securely to the floor (or anything else), yet comes off without leaving a residue.
Stay tuned for more safety tips in the next article!
Jim Kumorek is the owner of Spreading Flames Media, providing video production, photography and writing services. He has also been an editor at Church Production Magazine and Worship Facilities Magazine, and a church technical director responsible for audio, video and lighting systems. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.