Indiana law to keep
music fans at safe distance
years stage collapse at
Indiana State Fair prompts
new rules for stage setups
(July 2012) When folk music fans arrived at
this years RiverRoots Festival in Madison, Ind., last May, many
were surprised to find themselves confined to standing 20 feet back
from the stage. It was quite a change from previous years, when the
crowd was allowed to stand and dance much closer to the performers on
But barricades are now being positioned far enough back to create a
fall zone should anything happen to cause the speaker columns
or stage lights to fall and injure or kill bystanders. Such changes,
now required by state law in Indiana, have come about in the wake of
last years Indiana State Fair stage collapse in Indianapolis that
killed seven people and injured dozens prior to a scheduled Aug. 13
Sugarland concert. State Fair organizers were not required to have that
rigging inspected because it was a temporary structure not previously
covered under Indiana law.
Incidentally, a second stage collapse occurred June 16 in Toronto, Canada,
killing a drum technician and injuring three others prior to the scheduled
Radiohead concert at Downsview Park. The band has subsequently postponed
its European tour.
The new Indiana ordinance for stage riggings went into effect May 5
just two weeks before the RiverRoots Festival, making the
Madison event one of the first such venues to undergo a state inspection
to meet the new requirements.
It was challenging, especially since we had so little time between
when the law went into effect and our festival, said RiverRoots
festival coordinator Greg Ziesemer. The new law has certainly
changed the experience of a live show, and changed it permanently.
Ziesemer said many fans questioned why the barrier was placed so far
back from the stage. So he made several announcements from the stage
about the change to explain.
people were killed and dozens injured in August 2011 at the Indiana
State Fair when a stage collasped in high wind just prior to a
Sugarland concert. The tragedy prompted Indiana officials to pass
new laws regulating stage riggings and also set guidelines for
how far back the crowd must be, depending on the height of the
speakers and light towers. The law went into effect in May.
I think its going to take a while for the
state to sort this out, Ziesemer said. Im hopeful
they will define it more clearly in the future, but I was pleased with
the work our inspector did to try and apply the rules to our needs.
Linda Lytle, executive director of VisitMadison Inc., agreed that the
barrier setback from stage has had an impact for those who like to get
up close and personal with the bands. I think it does detract
from the crowds experience. We already did a three-foot setback
to protect the stage and equipment, but 8-15 feet is a good distance,
and the crowd will not feel as up close and personal with the bands.
Being a small venue has always been a drawing point for Madison
events. We have had people who went to concerts in Chicago for artists
and then turned around and bought tickets to our events for the same
artist so they could be up close.
Former city building inspector and Madison resident Jim Storm is the
inspector in Jefferson County for the state fire marshal, housed within
Indiana Department of Homeland Security, which enforces the new laws
regarding stage riggings. He also inspects venues in nearby Switzerland,
Ohio, Ripley and Jennings counties. In addition to the upcoming Madison
Ribberfest blues festival in mid-August, Storm will be inspecting the
stage for the Swiss Wine Festival in Vevay in August, among others.
All county fairs that have entertainment venues must be inspected, as
well as amusement rides and small stage venues in these counties, Storm
said. A permit must be obtained for such activities from the state office.
We have been undergoing continuous training to become more familiar
with the new law because each site is different, Storm said. The
law is being applied based on several factors, such as the size of the
stage, the number of people expected, and so on.
new law has certainly changed the experience of a live show, and
Greg Ziesemer, RiverRoots Festival Director
As for determining the size of the fall zone in front
of the stage, that is dependent upon the height of the speaker columns
on stage. The fall zone depth is determined by adding the height of
the speakers plus eight feet. Many times, the speakers are positioned
on stands, further elevating the height, he said.
Speaker combinations vary from venue to venue based on the needs of
the bands, the type of music played, the distance the sound must be
projected, and other factors. For instance, the speaker setup for the
folk festival bands at RiverRoots is different from the blues bands
needs for the Madison Ribberfest, according to Burke Jones, a city of
Madison utility maintenance employee who sets up the city-owned mobile
stage for these events. Jones says setting up the 600-square-foot mobile
stage is pretty basic unless he were asked to attached the extensions,
making the stage area larger.
Storm agrees, saying, The Madison people really know what theyre
doing when it comes to setting up that stage because that mobile stage
is self-contained. It is these temporary stages with lights and speakers
that are the greatest concern.
Still to be safe, Jones asked the manufacturer of the stage, Century
Industries, which is based in nearby Sellersburg, Ind., to send an engineer
over to provide specifications and details in response to documentation
that was required to meet the terms of the new stage rigging law.
We just wanted to make sure we did it right the first time, especially
since we will be going through this again in August with Ribberfest,
Ribberfest director Kathy Ayers said she understands the importance
of safety, saying, that is our No. 1 priority because we dont
want to happen in Madison what happened at the Indiana State Fair last
year. If it means we have to push the barricades back a little bit from
the stage to ensure the safety of the crowd, then we will do so, even
though Id like to see them be closer.
Entering its 11th year, the Ribberfests blues crowd has become
so large recently that it is hard to get anywhere near the stage, anyway.
Most spectators watch the bands from their own blankets and portable
chairs that they set up around the amphitheater at Madison Bicentennial
Each time the stage is used, it must be inspected. In late June, Jones
was called upon to set up the mobile stage for the Madison Regatta entertainment,
to be located on the riverfront at Firemans Park. Bands are scheduled
to play there Thursday through Saturday nights, July 5-7. Those bands
will use a smaller configuration of speakers, so the fall zone will
only need to be eight to 10 feet from the stage, he said.
got to be flexible and resilient to change when putting on these
Kathy Ayers, Ribberfest director
Jones also plans to set up the citys mobile stage
in late August for the Prince of Peace Catholic Schools Summer
Festival, and again in October on Madisons Main Street for the
Chamber of Commerces Soup, Stew, Chili & Brew event.
To help reduce the size of the fall zone at the RiverRoots Festival,
Jones installed a digitally controlled LED light pole instead of the
traditional lighting bar that hangs above the performers. This gave
the sound board controllers more control over the lighting effects and
also cut down on the heat intensity on the performers, he said.
We gained 10 to 12 feet of space by using the LED lights,
Jones said. That would have been about 50 percent of the concrete
pad (dancing area) in front of the stage that we would have lost.
In addition to meeting the new stage rigging law, each large entertainment
venue must have an evacuation plan in place should anything force the
evacuation of a large crowd. Madison festivals did not have such a plan
in place until recently. The plan is still be tweaked and will be presented
to all committee members of the Ribberfest in the coming weeks, according
to Ribberfests Ayers. She helped devise the plan, which was in
place for RiverRoots as well for the first time this year.
We basically plan to have an extra entrance gate on Central Avenue
for those people who already have admission wristbands, and we will
be prepared to open two additional exits in the back of the park in
the event of an emergency evacuation, Ayers said. We are
training our committee members on what to do and where to go in the
case of an emergency, whether it be caused by weather, fire, an accident
Ayers continued, saying, Weve got to be flexible and resilient
to change when putting on these events because our needs change. Ive
always said that we have put this event on over broken concrete and
stubble grass over the years, so we can work with anything.
To view the new Indiana state guidelines for
stage rigging, visit the Indiana Department of Homeland Security website
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