Different buildings or venues in Cambridge will have different fire alarm systems and different evacuation procedures. Make sure you read the relevant section(s) and the disclaimer.
Management will often conduct evacuation drills during tech rehearsals (they won’t tell you about this) and also conduct weekly test (which they will do an announcement about on the theatre's Paging System beforehand). The main fire alarm panel is in the Clubroom and has key switches to isolate the smoke detectors on stage and in the Larkum if you wish to use haze during a performance. There are fire alarm repeater panels in the Foyer, Management Office, Bar and in the PS Wing. There is also a fire alarm annunciator light on the SM Desk.
The fire alarm actually has several stages or levels of activation:
- Pre-alarm. This means a small amount of haze or smoke has been detected. It will be accompanied by a beeping from the fire alarm panel in the Clubroom but no other audiovisual signals. The alarm can be in pre-alarm indefinitely however it is standard practise to ring the Duty Manager immediately who will then check the part of the building that is in pre-alarm. The usual case is the patchbay if there is a lot of haze on stage; turn down the hazer and the levels will hopefully decrease enough to clear the alarm. In some shows, the haze levels mean that the patchbay fire alarm has to be isolated (by the DM) and then ‘guarded’ by an ASM or other member of the prod team - they are acting as a human fire alarm.
- Stage 1. This corresponds to an initial activation of a smoke detector. It will be accompanied by intermittent sounding of the sirens backstage and flashing strobes at Front of House and in the control boxes. Stage 1 lasts for only 2 minutes, after which the alarm will cascade into Stage 2 (unless it has been silenced and reset before hand). Upon hearing intermittent sirens/seeing strobes you should vacate the fly towers on stage and prepare to evacuate, but otherwise continue normally.
- Stage 3. This is a full-scale activation of the fire alarm and the digicom output - that is to say that University Security will be automatically notified and the Fire Brigade will be called to site (sometimes referred to as an RTOPS - Red Trucks on Park Street). Stage 2 is signified by continuous sounding of the sirens backstage and flashing strobes. Stage 2 is triggered after 2 minutes in Stage 1, or by someone activating a MCP (manual call point, also known as a break-glass). At the stage the fire alarm cannot/should not be silenced/reset and the building should be evacuated.
During day-to-day operations management will be in charge of the fire alarm and running evacuations. During a tech or dress rehearsal the Stage Manager is responsible for the evacuation of the stage and dressing rooms and management for the rest of the building. During a performance, the Duty Manager is responsible for areas the SM isn't. Outside of operating hours, the building key holder is in charge of the fire alarm and running any evacuations. Remember the golden rule: if at any point you see flames, hit a break-glass and evacuate.