Fog Machines and Fire Alarms

fog machine and fire alarmsIf you are working an event – be it a DJ gig, a holiday show or concert – you know that using your fog machine is a great way to add to the feel and atmosphere of the venue. Unfortunately, there are some things that need to be considered if you plan on breaking out the fog machine. Key amongst your concerns should be whether or not your fog machine is going to set off the smoke detector or fire alarms in the venue that you are working.

Few things can ruin your gig like a massive panic when the smoke alarms sound. And if the building in question has indoor sprinklers tied to their fire alarm system, things can get downright catastrophic. But it doesn’t have to be this way, here are some tips to avoid these types of smoke alarm snafus.

Know Your Client’s Policy

You are going to run into some venue managers who have a zero tolerance policy for fog machines and hazers. If this is the case, you could spend some time trying to convince them to let you use yours, but we recommend not doing that. Yes, that fog may make your show more exciting, but you could lose out on the gig. Even if you take the time to explain how you can avoid setting the fire alarms off, this is a battle that isn’t worth fighting.

For those venues that are a bit more lenient, but the management still has concerns about you setting off fire alarms, here are some tips to help you avoid those problems and set the venue management’s minds at ease…

  • Use a hazer instead of a fog machine. Hazers generally emit less dense vapors than fog machines. As such, they are less likely to set off particulate sensitive fire alarms. No, hazers aren’t perfect, and can sometimes set off fire alarms, but you stand a better chance of avoiding a disaster by using hazers instead of true fog machines.
  • Check air currents at the venue. Many times, larger performance areas are set up with fire alarm systems that will allow for the use of fog machines and hazers. However, the adjacent parts of the building – dressing rooms, offices, etc… – may have more sensitive alarm equipment. By bringing a hazer prior to the gig date, you can get an idea of the currents in the building and take measures to avoid fog or haze drifting into areas with more sensitive fire alarms.
  • Timing is everything. If you follow our advice and use a hazer, you can use time increments of a few minutes on/a few minutes off. This should allow haze to disperse enough to avoid setting off the fire alarms.

If these tips don’t work for you, or if you are dead set on using a fogger instead of a hazer, there is one alternative that you may want to consider. Most cities have fire marshals that can be hired out for events. These fire professionals can stand watch over proceedings and stand near the fire alarm panels. If your fog machine sets the fire alarm, the marshal can simply disengage the alarm. This allows event guests to stay safe and prevents panic from happening due to a false alarm. You will have to pay a few bucks to hire a fire marshal, but lots of entertainment professionals opt to do this and figure the extra cost into their contract billing.

We hope these tips on how to avoid setting off fire alarms with your fog machine or hazer prove to be helpful to you. Good luck on all of your upcoming gigs and shows.

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