ICC Upper Great Plains Workshop “Tent, Canopies, Clear Span Structure, and Stages”

I was invited to observe a workshop for Fire Marshals presented by the ICC Upper Great Plains Region III in Minneapolis, MN last month. The title of the workshop was “Tent, Canopies, Clear Span Structure, and Stages”. The conceptual premise for the Fire Marshal’s workshop was to outline the importance of proper installation and planning in correlation with manufactures’ specifications and building codes. One of our own, Tom Markel from Bravo Events, was a presenter along with Richard Nix, Division Coordinator for Entertainment Structures Group.

Tom Markel Bravo Events

Tom began the workshop discussing installation procedures for the different styles of tents: Rope and Pole, Tension, and Frame Tents, explaining the degree of difficulty in the installation process between the varying styles of tents. Tom conveyed a growing concern with the terminology in the current ICC building codes between tents and canopies. He also discussed Clear Span Structures with installed membrane along with best practices for installation and ballasting for Clear Spans. Tom conveyed the need for establishing a working relationship between Fire Marshals and tent companies.

Richard Nix Entertainment Structures Group

Richard Nix presented appropriately engineered methods for staging, documentation, and planning. One of Richard’s examples was the Minnesota State Fair. Using the Minnesota State Fair stage, Richard demonstrated what to look for in a lighting and sound diagram. Richard stressed the importance of planning that included vendors and Fire Marshals that were working on the project together. Meetings for a large project such as the State Fair were scheduled months in advance thru the pre-planning stages including the assembling of the structure.  Richard firmly stated that communications between vendors and Fire Marshals throughout the entire process were crucial for a safe and successful event.

Defintion of Tent, Canopies, Stages, and Structures

As an industry, we need to spend some time discussing the definition of tents, canopies, stages, and structures relating to the type of event in which these products are being utilized. For example, the entertainment world that uses stages with beams is classified as a structure. On the tent side, a structure can be defined as a temporary building with beams and membrane. Is a tent without a sidewall classified as a canopy? What if the tent was a 60X120 tension tent without sides; is it a tent or a canopy? Once we have defined these terms, we then can go forward working with code officials to create a fire code for the tent and event industry for the Fire Marshal to enforce.

The players involved in standardizing tent and event codes are the code officials, fire marshals, and tent and event rental companies. The core role in the standardization of tent and event codes becomes the event itself. Without the customer paying the bills, there isn’t an event.

The question becomes, should we treat all events the same?

Our next installment … Permits for Public and Private Events

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