Contact The NJ State Council
on the Arts
Mailing Address:
NJ State Council on the Arts
P.O. Box 306
Trenton, NJ 08625-0306

Office Address:
225 West State Street, 4th Floor
Trenton, NJ 08608

Tel: (609) 292-6130
NJ Relay: 711

MARCH 2018

March is an exciting month for the theatre. We celebrate World Theatre day on March 27, New Jersey's largest celebration of live theatre, the New Jersey Theatre Alliances' Stages Festival. We also celebrate National Music in our Schools month, and we observe Shakespeare Week.
Speaking of Shakespeare, one of the oldest theatre fires occurred at the original Globe Theatre on June 29, 1613. Miraculously there were no casualties among the 3000 patrons. Other theater fires have not been as fortunate with the number of causalities. The deadliest was the Iroquois Theatre in 1903-602 casualties; Conway's Theatre in 1876-285 casualties; Theatre Royal in 1887-200 casualties; Rhoads Opera House in 1908-171 casualties; Richmond Theatre in 1811-72 casualties.

Because of these early fires, we now have many fire safety systems and procedures enacted for theatres and venues of public performances, including schools. The safety of staff, volunteers and patrons should be foremost in your organization's operational plans. Each venue is unique but let's review some safety standards that can be applied and practiced everywhere.
Most fires can be divided into three categories:
  • Class "A"-fire involving ordinary combustibles such as paper, cloth, cardboard, and wood
  • Class "B"-fire involving petroleum base products such as paint, oil, grease, and fuel
  • Class "C"-electrical fire
To avoid fires, flammables such as paint, thinner, and spray cans should be stored in special metal storage cabinets. All rags or clothing materials saturated with flammable paints or solvents should be properly discarded outside of the building. Open flames on stage should be avoided if possible; if open flames are involved in a performance, adequate enclosure and safeguards must be provided and the fire department should be put on notice. Scenery, fabrics, and props shall be fabricated from non-flammable materials or shall have materials treated with fire retardant chemicals.
A fire curtain is a requirement in large theaters but should be considered in all theaters. The curtain must be resistant to fire and help to prevent or hinder fires that start on the stage from spreading to the rest of theater. The operation of the curtain should be tested at every performance, and inspected at least annually. Fire doors should not be propped open; this is a violation of fire codes.
Emergency Exits should be clearly marked and illuminated; they should not be blocked in anyway. Staff and volunteers should be trained, and drills conducted at least annually on the venue's evacuation procedures. Fire extinguishers should be clearly marked, and staff and volunteers should be trained on their proper use; however, 911 should still be called in case of any fire.
When presenting performances at schools and other venues beside theaters, the same safety procedures should be followed. When in the planning stages of the performances, ask for copies of the emergency procedures and walk through the venue to identify emergency exits, fire alarms, and extinguishers. Notice if there is flammable material in or near the performance area, and if so, bring this to the attention of the management of the facility.
Want to learn more? I'm here to help.
I'm Ellen Korpar, and I'll be working as New Jersey's Emergency Preparedness Consultant (EPC), until July 2018. Simply put, that means if you're with a New Jersey performing arts organization and you want to make sure you're prepared for emergencies of all kinds, in all the ways you should be, I want to help you - for free.

My work in New Jersey is made possible by the Performing Arts Readiness project (PAR), a national initiative focused on strengthening preparedness efforts of the performing arts sector. We believe preparedness is the key to resiliency, and resiliency means our treasured cultural resources and venues can continue to contribute to communities in the vital ways we've all come to expect.

The New Jersey State Council on the Arts is a founding partner in the PAR project, and my host for the year. Together we will work to support performing arts organizations of all sizes, and in all disciplines, providing one-on-one consulting and planning services, group trainings, and everything in between. If I haven't met you yet, please feel free to be in touch!

mobile 732-241-6014
office   609-777-3657
The New Jersey State Council on the Arts, created in 1966, is a division of the NJ Department of State. The Council was established to encourage and foster public interest in the arts; enlarge public and private resources devoted to the arts; promote freedom of expression in the arts; and facilitate the inclusion of art in every public building in New Jersey. The Council receives direct appropriations from the State of New Jersey through a dedicated, renewable Hotel/Motel Occupancy fee, and competitive grants from the National Endowment for the Arts. To learn more about the Council, visit 

The Performing Arts Readiness project was formed in the recognition that performing arts organizations are especially vulnerable to disasters and emergencies that can halt performances, and can put an organization out of business overnight. This multi-year project was launched in January of 2017 through a generous grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. The Project Partners bring together knowledge of the performing arts field and expertise in emergency preparedness. Learn more about the free services, information and support PAR provides, visit