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Guest Judith Howard-Rees

Curtains over fire exit in community centre

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Guest Judith Howard-Rees

Can an entrance/exit with glass fire proof doors and with Fire Exit signs above it, have curtains (fire proof) drawn across them during use of the space? for example a Community Center. 

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Yes it can providing the fire exit sign is visible when the curtains are closed, they run freely, a 150mm gap between floor and the bottom of the curtain. Also in the event of an emergency a steward reports to the the door, opens the curtains and usher the patrons through the door as should happen in all theatres/cinemas.

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Guest Auriel Martin

Hi Mr Sutton

Can you give me the source of this information please?  I need to prove the acceptable use of theatre curtains in a similar situation.

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I am afraid I am not aware of source for the above information and modern guidance clearly does not recommend this however if you go into any theatre or cinema in the country you will find curtains covering the final exit doors which has been the situation for many years.

What do you do if you are conducting a FRA, tell them to remove them or fire risk the situation.

When I had to, I used the general guidance of the day, which is what I said above and considered it to be a adequate, but the final say is with the enforcing officer/RP.

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Guest Auriel Martin

Modern guidance as pointed out to me by our Fire Officer does seem to make this unacceptable.  However it was permitted in my pre-2006 Theatre licence with conditions (as you described), when I changed to a Premises licence I had all the old conditions 'Grandfathered' from the old licence onto the new.  After a refurbishment, I was about to order new curtains for the doorways (there is no door, just a hole in the wall, fire doors are a short distance away down the corridor) when the Fire Officer told me that I would have to leave the doorways as open exits - no curtains.  This is unworkable, I would have the audience walking into a dark theatre with no 'baffle' area where they could be held for a short time, discretely.  I have argued my case, and the FO has downgraded his absolute 'no' to a 'my recommendation is no curtains'  I don't want to defy him, but I also need to operate a professional theatre.  What should I do?

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Get his requirement in writing and appeal he/she must realise we now work in an area of fire risk assessment which is clearly agreed in the appropriate document. I cannot guarantee you would win but at least you would have an official response.  

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Guest RPFM

Hi Tom, in an earlier thread you mentioned a minimum distance from floor to bottom edge of curtains of 75mm, then in this thread you have stated 150mm. Which is correct? Are there official guidelines on this? Thanks.

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As far as I am aware it used to say in old guidance was clear of the floor, which was interpreted as 6 inches or there about. Ideally you should not have curtains covering exits but were curtains had been used for many years, then it continued to be accepted with conditions.

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