If you are in the process of designing a new stage, then you are likely aware of the need for curtains that will protect the audience in the event of a fire. When speaking of theatrical fire curtains, we need to be clear that we’re often referring to two different products.
The first are the plain, grey fiberglass fire curtains that are designed to drop automatically upon the activation of a fire alarm, or when a line is cut manually, completely separating the stage from the audience. It is QSD’s first priority to ensure that your stage is a safe place for both you and your audience, and for over 25 years, QSD has been installing fire curtains. These do not lose their fire safety qualities over time.
The second are the curtains the audience sees. They may be treated with a flame retardant, or they may be made of a material that is inherently flame retardant (IFR). These are technically not fire curtains, but curtains with ratings and certifications for flame retardancy. Treated curtains do age and deteriorate over time, diminishing their fire safety qualities.
Regardless of who originally installed your theatrical curtains, they are going to need to be replaced at some point in time. The typical lifespan of a cotton-based, fire-retardant-coated curtain is anywhere from seven to 15 years — depending on quality, materials and other factors. IFR fabrics – like polyester – can last longer.
The Pitfalls of Re-Certifying Current Curtains
Fire marshals have begun to crack down those who choose not to replace their theatrical curtains when they have deteriorated. Each province has its own set of guidelines that must be met for a curtain to be officially certified as fire safe. If – upon inspection – your curtains are found to fall short of these standards, the marshal will declare them unsafe, and order you to take them down and replace them immediately. This will put a halt to any performance that is scheduled in the intervening time.
Roman is a fully-qualified installer and customer service rep at QSD and has worked with the company for over nine years, so he can offer a great deal of insight in terms of what the pitfalls of re-certifying your fire curtains are and what’s involved when you re-certify a curtain for fire retardancy.
“Obviously, you do run into a fire marshal here and there, and they don’t care what the reason is. You don’t have certification for your drapes, get them down or get new ones with certification,” says Roman.
That’s when a stressed out or panicking client will call QSD with a request for repairs so that they can be re-certified as soon as possible. The problem is that the cost of performing the necessary maintenance on fire curtains in terms of time and resources almost always surpasses the cost of replacing them altogether.
“With the re-certifications, we get asked primarily once the fire marshals go away and do their thing. The marshals do a barrage for two months on all the schools, and nobody can come up with fire certification, date of purchase, anything like that. So, what ends up happening is they’re all scrambling.”
Often, the request will sound something like this: “Hey, we have a play next week, we need you to re-certify these drapes, because everyone’s under pressure. Just come in and spray it!”
Yet it’s a very common misconception that you can simply re-certify curtains. It is possible, but it will often run about 90 per cent of the cost of a new curtain. So, the only time it’s beneficial to do this is if you have something very high quality and rare.
“If it’s a normal curtain paneling, just the back stage, even the main stage, we pick them up, we drop them off and get them dry cleaned, get them repaired. They’re hung up, they’re sprayed, front and back, with Unflame. They’re dried for another week. Then we have to cut the back of the curtain, a piece of the actual curtain, have that piece sewn back in, and try a burn test on it, make sure that it works.”
This is quite a process, and while this is all happening, you’ll be without curtains at your facility. That means zero curtains to practice or to hold any events with.
“It’s not a good thing to do because as I said you’re going to pay almost the cost of a new drape to return something, after two to three weeks, that looks identical to what was there, because I can’t make the color more vibrant, I can’t make those rips go away, I can’t do any of that. If you’re going to be without your curtains for three weeks, you’re only going to get back the dull, faded color. It’s more beneficial to just get new curtains. And that way, everybody’s happy,” recommends Roman.
QSD is the Industry Leading Expert in Theatrical Fire Curtains
QSD takes pride in designing curtains that look fantastic and are fire safe for all types of theatres. When you work with QSD, you get the benefit of an entire team working in unison to ensure your curtain project is successful. And don’t forget, they’re on call in case of an emergency.
Customer service is the pillar of QSD’s operating philosophy. The team at QSD is determined to create an experience for their clients that is as seamless and stress-free as possible. To ensure you receive the highest quality curtain service and maintenance, it’s critical to do business with a company that can provide you proper curtain care when you need it.
QSD has been providing the very best in curtain service and maintenance to theatre owners for nearly three decades. Their goal is to remain at the forefront of the industry by utilizing reliable designs and offering premium products that will give customers years of satisfaction.
Contact QSD today to ask any questions you have about curtain replacement, fire proofing or drape maintenance processes.