PLSN — June 2012
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Indiana Officials Now Requiring Stage Structure Inspections, Emergency Plans

INDIANAPOLIS — The Indiana Fire Prevention and Building Safety Commission unanimously approved new regulations on temporary staging May 2 that went into effect May 3. The regulations, which followed the April 12 release of two state-commissioned reports on the deadly staging collapse at the Indiana State Fair last summer, mandate engineer-approved rigging plans and detailed emergency plans.

Although the new rules let smaller event organizers bypass the regulations by keeping fans away from the stage — the distance for this “buffer zone” would be the height of the rigging, plus eight feet — larger operators are not taking any chances.

One of five stages set up to entertain racing fans at Indianapolis Motor Speedway (IMS) during the Indianapolis 500 in late May was quickly replaced on short notice after safety inspectors deemed it non-compliant. The privately-built stage lacked the required technical documentation showing how the structure would be able to support the weight of gear it was loaded with in high winds.

Indiana state fire marshal Jim Greenson commended the speedway’s management for their cooperation in replacing the stage. The privately-built stage was rejected May 24, just days before it was to be used for the 2012 edition of the Indianapolis 500 on May 27.

In addition to its willingness to replace the stage on short notice, speedway officials also met the new regulations for emergency planning with a policy of bringing down banners and screens in winds higher than 20 mph and lowering speakers and the canopy when winds exceed 40 mph.

Kevin Forbes, director of engineering at the speedway, was involved in the creation of the new state regulations. He noted that the engineering analysis needed to ascertain the mathematical limits of the stages used during the Indianapolis 500 represented an investment of “tens of thousands of dollars.”

So far there are no reports of events that have been forced to cancel, solely on the basis of the new regulations, although there are some reports noting that the new regulations make have been a contributing factor for the cancellation of a Fourth of July concert in Bloomington, IN of the Bloomington Pops, which had faced declining attendance in recent years.

Greeson also noted that there were a handful of smaller festivals where the new regulations, which require physical inspections along with inspections of the building plans and paperwork documenting the stage structure’s strength, were proving to be a significant burden — in some cases the staging elements are so old the current owners can’t even identify the staging manufacturer.