Excerpt From Chapter Five: Building Department

“The building department can either be an ally or an opponent. It is always best to meet with the building department about your event early in the planning process.

That is worth repeating. It is always better to meet with the building department for your event sooner, rather than later.

Each area of the country is different and each building department has its’ own set of rules. While standard building codes exist, there can be codes specific to the local building department and it is better to be familiar with these at the outset. Pay particular attention to the building codes with regard to tent spacing. In some locales you have to provide a fire break after a number of tents in a row. You will need to know this before you sign off on the tent layout.

The building department should communicate its expectations. Talk to them about the site and what you plan to do. Take maps to leave with them. Have a meeting with all the department heads; create an agenda which explains the scope of the event. Ask help in making your event painless for everyone.

During the practice rounds at one event the building inspector came up to me and told me I had to move some tents in a corporate village. I knew the plans had been submitted well in advance which should have uncovered the problem which was raised. Upon further review at the building department, the inspector found the plans were submitted, but no one caught the spacing issue. In the end, no tents were moved. This reinforces the fact that even if you begin early, errors will occur.

If it is your fault, you have to ask the building inspectors for options. In almost all cases, something can be done to work around the problem. It may cost you money to solve the problem by either adding additional fire personnel or fire equipment.

The Fire Marshal will want to see the flame certificates for the tents as well as a list of hazardous materials used by the decorating company. This list might include the type of wood used in the walls or counters, the ceiling liner material, hard walls, stage lighting and paint. A map showing the location of all these items for quick review in the event something should happen should also be prepared and provided.”