When a trip to the theatre could end with a race to the exit

A trip to the theatre nowadays is usually a treat. Today when passing through the glass doors of our beautiful theatres in the south-west and seeing the lush surroundings, the deep red carpet, the swish doors of the auditorium, and passing through those doors, the rows of comfortable velvet clad seats, all numbered. One of those seats is yours for the evening, where you will witness a live play, or a musical or even a pantomime. But whatever you will see, you will be enthralled, transported to a different world of the theatre with live performers – just for you … for a few hours.

But just about a century ago a trip to the theatre was an entirely different experience. Without many of the forms of electrical entertainment we now take for granted, a trip to theatre was usually to witness a performance of variety, such as singing, dancing, jokes and even a bit of magic. The auditorium was very varied in its accommodation, with sprung seats for the well-heeled, and benches, or standing on straw, for everyone else in the heights of the gallery. The wealthy seats didn’t have it all good though, as when it got riotous, beer and other objects would rain down from the heights from the over-excited crowd onto the seats below.

Lighting was a challenge in Victorian theatre. Live fire on the stage was not unusual, and fire escapes were non-existent. Oil lamps replaced candles, and then gas lamps followed, but all were volatile when it came to a fault. Almost every theatre in the United Kingdom suffered with one fire or another during this period, and over 26 theatres were destroyed completely by fire during this time.

In Bath the Theatre Royal was all but burnt to the ground in 1862 when a fire broke out one night, luckily it was empty. Just the façade was left standing, but plans were quickly put in place to build anew, and in 1863 it opened again to a Midsummer Night’s Dream. A fire-proof curtain on the stage, additional exits and a staircase were fitted in 1902 in order to comply with safety regulations. The Theatre Royal in Bath then enjoyed a renaissance until the 1970s when going out for entertainment had now become unfashionable. It was sold on several times and ran into debt and dilapidation, before it limped on through the 1980s.

But after the millennium and the tourist trade booming, the theatre enjoyed a new popularity. The Ustinov and the Egg auditoriums were built and the Theatre Royal itself was refurbished to a standard to suit the audience of the 21st century.

The smell of the grease paint is gone, and so are the lime lights, but a night out at the theatre remains as popular as ever. In 2018 large crowds of people in closed spaces such as auditoriums are also taken very seriously by fire safety officials. For all your fire safety needs including installation and maintenance of fire alarms, smoke alarms, extinguishers, fire blankets, fire risk assessments and fire safety training for your staff contact our own specialist people at Bath & West Fire & Safety.

The Fyre Festival that became a Fizzle – what happened?

In 2017 a dream was hatched: it featured an idyllic island in the Bahamas, luxury yachts, sunsets, beautiful people … thousands of them, all pulsating to the beat of the music of hedonism – well it seemed like a good idea at the time. The Fyre Festival was born from an idea of an entrepreneur based in New York, he had experience of running events … sort of, he sure had a following – mostly wanting a refund.

But back to the Fyre Festival. It had to be somewhere people really wanted to be seen. So, a massive publicity party was arranged, and filmed on an island in the Bahamas. Carefully staged super models and sports stars cavorted on the beach, rolled in the sand, skipped around yachts, swam with pigs … but when the island owner found out, he told them to leave. Nevertheless party photos were posted on the internet and potential revellers loved them! Another Bahamas island was found, and the Fyre Festival plan trundled on. The musicians were booked, all hip, hop and happening – it was going to be great! Next … well it all got a bit complicated after that.

The fact was that the planning for the Fyre Festival was pitiful. Getting thousands of people to an island for one event is challenging enough but thinking through looking after them when they are there is a logistical nightmare. In this case, just shipping in enough drinking water (the island had no reliable domestic water infrastructure) almost cost one member of staff his dignity and his job, it didn’t help that the organiser insisted on Evian, originating from France at a cost of $175,000 as a customs bill to pay. Food, shelter, toilet facilities and fire safety all had to be considered, discussed, arranged, allocated, obtained and supervised – not so glamorous as booking stars, but absolutely necessary when you have crowds of people together for an event.

The Fyre Festival crashed onward regardless, and when the date arrived, the crowds poured in. They were greeted after a rainstorm by emergency tents and soaking wet mattresses, half-built stages, cancelled acts, and … then the infamous and grim cheese slice and lettuce in a plastic box which failed to convince party goers that this offering was luxury nosh flooded aghast onlookers via the internet. Lord of flies had arrived, it was every man and woman for themselves as people fought for mattresses, food and to retrieve their baggage from a truck in the middle of the night. The organisers had no choice but to call the event off and send everyone home.

The Fyre fiasco was a reminder to organisers of any event, large or small. Planning is the priority – months, or even years ahead. What are people going to eat? Where are they going to sleep? What fire safety procedures do you have in place? Fire safety checks need to be made and fire safety equipment can be hired or purchased for events in advance. For all your event fire safety needs, contact us at Bath & West Fire & Safety.

Forget the tread-mill and ditch the mini trampoline! Try this weight loss technique …

Its 2019 … happy new you? If you have started off the year with the resolution to eat Mediterranean and dangle from the ceiling on 30-foot ribbons trying out the latest aerial flying fantastic craze, please stop for a moment and read this. Before you stretch the lycra you need to make sure that your surroundings haven’t got a bit ‘bloated’ over the festive season. Taking a few steps around your building you might notice that passageways have become blocked with stacks of stuff, well roll up your sleeves – they need to be cleared. Further, take a step ladder and stick your finger up to test your smoke alarm, working ok? Fine. Need batteries? Take a gentle jog to the shops and buy some. Your surroundings looking a bit neglected? Show some love and request a fire risk assessment with our in-house expert. Fire extinguishers a bit flat and dusty? Its time for an annual fire safety check with our qualified technicians.

Predictions for 2019 fitness routines is that short, sweet and often is the trend, so make a date to stride around your surroundings regularly to look out for things that need attention. Happy January!

For all your fire safety needs including fire risk assessments, installation and maintenance of fire alarms, smoke alarms, extinguishers, fire blankets and fire safety training for your staff contact us at Bath & West Fire & Safety.

Crackers, Poppers and Candles – it’s Christmas!

Christmas is traditionally a time for celebration and feasting. But on Christmas Day, or afternoon, to be precise, the emergency services are on high alert for the phones to start ringing after more than chestnuts have got roasted on an open fire, and the very house is aglow, but not with festive spirit.

Accidents are mostly likely in the kitchen, with over-zealous and pickled chefs roasting sprouts, barbecuing turkeys and incinerating puddings. After that, faulty fairy lights are next in line for a sparkle which might go down with a bang, but with the modern technology of lighting and some lights battery illuminated, this becomes less likely. Candles are another thing, they should never be left unattended … and its worth noting that fragranced candles can be particularly volatile. Make sure that your smoke alarm is in full working order and the batteries haven’t been pinched for a new toy.

Crackers and party poppers do contain a tiny amount of gunpowder, just enough to remind you of a crackling fire apparently, but most of them are harmless. Kids … don’t aim that party popper at auntie Barb’s face, that’s just not nice. And watch the little gifts in crackers, you don’t want your three-year old turning your best curtains into a snowflake cutting class with those tiny scissors or attempting to re-wire the house with that miniature tool-kit.

Then there’s the family bonding. Ahh yes, trapped by the pearls of wisdom whilst drying up, the mountains of plates, the greasy spoons, the umpteen half empty glasses of wine when there are only four adults in the house, the rubbish bags of crumpled wrapping paper to go through to find that elusive lost earring. The broken toys to fix, the hugely complicated set of instructions to ponder with a furrowed brow. The 1000-piece jigsaw puzzles, the Monopoly game that lasts for days, the laughter, the hugs, the surprises, the doggies dressing up kit, the toddler fairy (everyone, even grandpa says ‘awww’). Yes, its Christmas, a time for feasting, celebration, saying ‘hi’ to your neighbour, and saying ‘I love you’ to your family and friends, giving to charity and singing a few carols, reflecting on absent loved ones, treasuring memories, and making plans. Best wishes for a Happy Christmas from all of us at Bath & West Fire & Safety. See you in the New Year – 2019!

The office will be closed from Friday 21st December to Monday 7th January 2019. For out of hours please contact 01225 868199.

The Christmas Yule Log – it’s not just Chocolate!

Christmas is full of traditions. And the ritual of burning a yule log at Christmas is one which goes back to pagan times. The name ‘Yule’ originates from northern Europe, meaning Winter Solstice. In the dark days of winter over the yuletide period, it was the belief that the sun would stand still for the 12 days of Christmas.

So, on Christmas Eve, people would travel to the forests and select a special log which would be dragged back home, tied in ribbons and decorated. People would take turns in dragging the log as this was thought to bring good luck. The log would then be burnt in the fireplace until 12th night to keep the house warm and also to bring fortune on the home and its inhabitants. If the
log was to go out, then this would mean bad luck. How did one log keep burning for 12 days? Sometimes it would be an entire tree and would be so big that part of it would have to burst out through an open window! Sometimes a large log would be cut into bits and burnt gradually. But it was important that not all the log would be consumed, as a little piece would have to be kept to light the next yule log on the next year’s Christmas Eve.

But if you haven’t got an open fire, there are apps to download a yule log fire, complete with crackling, so it can be played on the tv. Although we think that the best way to celebrate the yuletide log is to make a chocolate one. But then the problem would be … could you make it last for 12 days?!

For all your fire safety needs including fire risk assessments, installation and maintenance of fire alarms, extinguishers, fire blankets and fire safety training for your staff contact us at Bath & West Fire & Safety.

It’s Band-Aid 2018 with The Fire Tones

Just in time for Christmas there is a new version of Bob and Midge’s ‘Do they know its Christmas?’. Tipped for the Season’s Number One slot, a group called ‘The Fire Tones’ are singing their hearts out for two charities: The Fire Fighters Charity and The Band Aid Charity Trust. It’s an emotional video to watch, and Amazon sales have been brisk so far.

The original Band-Aid single ‘Do they know it’s Christmas?’ was released in 1984. The hope was to raise cash for famine relief in crisis ridden Ethiopia. At the time it was a huge novelty for a group of pop and rock artistes to get together and sing for charity in the form of a super group. The Band-Aid single featured various big-haired stars of the day, such as Status Quo, Bananarama, Bono, Sting, George Michael and Boy George, and was released a few weeks before Christmas. It leapt to the No.1 after selling a million copies in the first week, and over 3 million before the end of the 1984.

A Live-Aid concert was to follow in 1985 when rock group Queen took to the stage and performed what is thought to be the best ever live performance of a rock band in front of a full capacity audience of 170,000 in Wembley Stadium. At the same time, there were live concerts all over the world, including Philadelphia, Soviet Union, Japan and West Germany. In all, it is estimated that the Live Aid concerts were watched by 1.5 billion people in 110 countries. The money raised from the Live-Aid project topped £150 million, and most of it went to help fight famine.

‘Do they know its Christmas?’ is a song which is often played at this time of the year, and many may remember the original, and other versions too with every passing generation. But we wish the Fire Tones our best wishes for their crack at this festive favourite. For all your fire safety needs including fire risk assessments, installation and maintenance of fire alarms, smoke alarms, extinguishers, fire blankets and fire safety training for your staff contact us at Bath & West Fire & Safety.

The Fatal fire on Apollo 1 and what was learned from it

The mission for a man to walk on the moon changed forever in 1967, when a flash fire swept through the Apollo 1 command module during a launch rehearsal test. Three astronauts, Gus Grissom, Ed White and Roger Chaffee died despite the best efforts of the ground crew. It would take more than 18 months, and extensive re-designs, before NASA sent more men into space.

NASA was given an ambitious goal, set by President Kennedy in 1961, to land a man on the moon and return him safely to Earth by the end of the decade. Earlier Mercury and Gemini flights had been the first steps toward that goal, testing how humans behaved in space and how to do technical spacecraft procedures such as rendezvous. Now the Apollo missions would take astronauts all the way to walk on the moon.

But on this particular test, there was a myriad of problems which pointed towards the tragedy. Apollo 1 had its difficulties from the onset and the astronauts were frustrated that developments so far had not included their consultation. That morning, the astronauts donned their suits and detected a strange smell in the breathing oxygen: this took about an hour to repair. Then the communications system malfunctioned, voices were muffled, and the control tower struggled to hear the astronauts. Suddenly, one word sent shockwaves to those outside. ‘Fire!’ Engineers raced immediately to the capsule and fought to open the heavy and cumbersome door, but as it was eventually prised open, the tragic scene unfolded.

After the fire which claimed the lives of the three astronauts, the NASA review board found there had been a stray spark, probably from damaged wires, and this had probably started the fire in the pure oxygen environment. Flammable features such as nylon netting and foam pads, fuelled the blaze and it quickly spread.

Additionally, the hatch door, intended to keep the astronauts and the atmosphere securely inside the spacecraft, was too tough to open from the outside in an emergency. The astronauts had struggled in vain to open the door during the fire, but the pressure inside the spacecraft sealed the door and made it impossible to open.

The investigation listed a damning set of circumstances, failures and recommendations for future spacecraft designers to consider.

Several changes were made to the design of the Apollo spacecraft to improve crew safety. The flammable oxygen environment for ground tests was replaced with a nitrogen-oxygen mix. Flammable items were removed. A new respect developed between the astronauts and the contractors concerning design changes, which were implemented more effectively. Most notably, the door was completely redesigned so that it would open in mere seconds when the crew needed to get out in a hurry.

The prevention of a fire was a priority in the Apollo missions after the tragedy. It is interesting to note that in the original incident report of the Apollo 1 tragedy it mentions that a portable fire extinguishers would be included specifically for future Apollo missions – might this mean that Apollo 1 did not have a fire extinguisher at all? A chilling thought. For all your fire safety needs including fire risk assessments, installation and maintenance of fire alarms, smoke alarms, extinguishers, fire blankets and fire safety training for your staff contact us at Bath & West Fire & Safety.

‘Flame’ Restaurant evacuated after real Fire

A restaurant that prides itself on its spectacular real flame-based cuisine in Northern Ireland was caught up in the drama of an out of control fire recently. Five appliances including one helicopter attended the blaze when over 40 diners, hotel guests and staff were evacuated. The popular restaurant is in the centre of Belfast, and offers steaks, chops and even puddings seared, flamed and grilled in full view of the diners in an open plan kitchen located in the heart of the restaurant. There is also a Tandoori oven which is traditionally heated from a coal fire to make authentic tasting Tandoor dishes. But it would appear that the fire did not originate from any of the cooking appliances, but from the extractors designed to whisk the smoke away.

Because of the nature of cooking, fires in any restaurant kitchen are almost an occupational hazard. Special considerations need to be made as to the appliances used, the layout of the kitchen and restaurant, and the methods used to cook food. A professional risk assessment should be carried out. Staff should receive specialist training in how to deal with the unexpected.

But back to Flame. On that night all the staff and customers were evacuated safely. Flame’s speciality might have been to use fire as a flamboyant cooking tool and give food that flavour of a fire, but that would mean extra vigilance between a good flame and a bad flame, and the skills to know what to do next.

For all your fire safety needs including fire risk assessments, installation and maintenance of fire alarms, smoke alarms, extinguishers, fire blankets and fire safety training for your staff contact us at Bath & West Fire & Safety.

Are these wildfires the end of the Californian Dream?

California has hit the headlines yet again with another round of huge wildfires. Iconic areas such as Malibu have been lit up with flames, homes and treasured possessions destroyed, as residents face the dilemma of abandoning their beautiful residences or staying to try to protect and divert the fires from destroying all in their wake. Sadly, some people have lost their lives in the battle against the elements. But the fires rage on, and even small smoulders have started the whole misery again and again. Firefighters have had their numbers swelled by prison inmates, volunteering to assist in the relentless battle against the fires.

But this is nothing new in California. The weather in a typical Californian spring, summer and autumn is hot, arid and windy and there is plenty of parched vegetation – perfect conditions for even a tiny spark to mean devastation. Statistics show that wildfires are a regular occurrence, with over 9,000 fires reported in 2017 and 1,300,000 acres of land affected. But it does seem that California is getting warmer and some think this may be to do with climate change.

Wildfires are only part of the story in California. Earthquakes, floods, and landslides have hit the area hard over the years and destroyed beautiful homes in their wake. Images of devastation fill the newspapers as history seems to repeat itself in this American state of dreams and famous places – Hollywood, LA, Disneyland, Silicon Valley, Malibu, Carmel, San Francisco, Yosemite; surely every time the dream house gets built there must be the anxiety that someday the whole lot will come crashing down for one reason or another.

But despite all this, California remains one of the most sought-after areas to live in the USA with opulent properties in demand for tens of millions of dollars and many stars of stage and screen making the Golden state their home. So, will this latest spate of wildfires be the end of the Californian Dream? Probably not. Be it good, bad or ugly, the Golden state of California is iconic – that’s why! For all your fire safety needs including fire risk assessments, installation and maintenance of fire alarms, smoke alarms, extinguishers, fire blankets and fire safety training for your staff contact us at Bath & West Fire & Safety.

The Candle Flames that light up in the memory of those Fallen

This Sunday marks 100 years since Armistice Day, when, on the 11th hour of the 11th day on the 11th month in 1918, World War I, known then as the Great War, the guns fell silent and an armistice was declared. And in this year of 2018, until Sunday, 10,000 candles a night will illuminate the Tower of London for this memorial.

The installation is called ‘Beyond the Deepening Shadow’ and it will surely mean different things to different people: as the candles burn some may remember the stories of relatives killed in the conflict, some may reflect on the people who survived the war and went on to re-build their lives, some may think of the memorial inscriptions around the world to those fallen from many towns, villages and work places, and some may simply ponder the massive loss of life of a generation past.

The 10,000 candles will be placed in the dry moat which surrounds The Tower of London. It will take around 45 minutes for the lights to be lit by volunteers and they will burn for approximately 4 hours. Illuminating the spectacular backdrop of the Tower of London, the candle lights will be accompanied by a specially commissioned choral work called Sonnets to a Soldier, as well as a sonic exploration of the shifting tide of political alliances, friendship, love and loss in war.

Described as an evolving spectacle, lighting this number of candles is an operation which requires a lot of organisation. Volunteers will be put into pairs and given a particular ‘zone’ to light. Each pair consisting of a ‘leader’ with a magnetic hook to lift a metal cover off each holder, followed by a ‘lighter’ who carries a tiny blowtorch on the end of a rod to light each flame. Volunteers have had fire safety training and have all been issued with special grey coloured and flame-resistant boiler-suits – to blend into the backdrop of the Tower.

Beyond the Deepening Shadow starts at around 5pm every night, it is free to visit, and runs until Sunday.