Tents: Addressing tent legislation in Kentucky
Tents: Addressing tent legislation in Kentucky
03/06/2013

Rental stores help develop new permit process

After the August 2011 collapse of the stage at the Indiana State Fair in Indianapolis and the April 2012 tent collapse in St. Louis, government officials across the U.S. began to look more closely at tent and stage regulations.

Requirements for tent rental became more stringent and prompted more discussion. In Kentucky, officials began requesting engineering documents for all tents to be reviewed by building code officials and that started a series of conversations that led to an agreement between local tent rental representatives and the state government.

Terry Bryant, president, Bryant’s Rent-All, Lexington, Ky., first heard about the new requirements when the company was putting up a stage at the Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington. “We received a call in early April regarding a May 5 installation of a 32-ft.-by-44-ft. stage using 4-ft.-by-4-ft. platforms. Our client, another state agency, informed us that the state building inspector’s office wanted all the engineering designs of the stage submitted to their office, so a Kentucky-licensed engineer could place their stamp of approval on the engineering specs before installation,” Bryant said.

“We were required to send $125 to the state building inspector’s office for the evaluation and approval of the staging,” he said.

The request was a change from how permits had been handled in the past, Bryant said. During the process, the state building inspector’s office sent out a copy of the current Kentucky Tent & Temporary Structure Plan — including specifications for tents, portable buildings, bleachers/grandstands and raise/elevated floors and platforms — to several tent rental companies including Bryant’s. Many forwarded the information to their event planners as well.

The stage collapse in Indianapolis raised awareness and concern of the state’s liability if a similar tragedy were to happen in Kentucky.

Shortly after the state’s engineering team reviewed the stage Bryant’s planned to install, the state building inspector’s office realized it was not the same type of stage that had collapsed in Indianapolis.

“With that realization, an avenue of communication was opened to address our concerns about the Kentucky Tent & Temporary Structure codes and regulations,” Bryant said. “We invited the state building code officials to a meeting at Bryant’s Rent-All store to discuss the temporary structures codes and regulations. We had a cross representation of the event industry including tent manufacturers, tent installers, event and wedding planners and rental stores, as well as representatives from the Kentucky Department of Housing, Building and Construction.”

The meeting ended with a mutual agreement to form a committee to address the codes and regulations. Committee members consisted of tent manufacturers, tent installers, event planners, structural engineers, ARA Insurance representatives, state officials and general counsel, Bryant said.

During the first committee meeting in June 2012, which lasted three hours in Frankfort, Ky., the state capital, the building code officials presented the current codes and regulations, along with the introduction of their new state tent model approval plan. Much discussion centered around codes and regulations for private versus public events.

“This common theme of concern about large public events compared to private individual events continued in each of our meetings, We all agree, however, that safety for all our clients was the foremost element of concern,” Bryant said.

At the July 2012 meeting, Richard Nix, project coordinator at Entertainment Structures Group of Cincinnati, gave a presentation on the engineering of the type stage that collapsed at the Indiana State Fair. Then the Industrial Fabrics Association International (IFAI) gave a presentation on tent staking procedures.

“The state officials were so impressed with the professionalism of the presentation, they decided to incorporate the IFAI tent staking publication as their standard for anchoring temporary structures,” Bryant said.

In August, the Kentucky deputy commissioner and technical advisor went to Indianapolis to meet with the Indiana state fire marshal. Then in September, James Greeson, Indiana state fire marshal, gave a presentation to the committee of the state of Indiana’s emergency rule on outdoor stage equipment, adopted by the Indiana Fire Prevention Building Safety Commission in May, and Indiana’s process for amusement and entertainment permits and stage inspections. He also showed slides of the collapse of the entertainment tower stage that took place in Indianapolis.

“He had slides showing second by second of that stage collapse. During the collapse, you could see that the tents on either side of the stage kept standing,” Bryant said.

In addition, Bryant gave a presentation of the various sizes and types of tents, including canopies, pole tents, frame tents and structures. “I also discussed the difference between certified and non-certified tents. All commercial tents are engineered, but each tent is engineered to meet different specifications and standards. I used the terms certified and non-certified to clarify the difference between wind-rated tents and non-wind-rated tents,” he said. “My report revealed that 80 to 85 percent of all tents in the rental market are non-certified type membrane structures.”

The meeting also included more discussion on public versus private events, advanced notice by clients and the economic impact of the current codes and regulations, including reference material from the American Rental Association’s (ARA) Rental Market Monitor™ report for the state of Kentucky.

In November, the committee members received a final draft of the adjusted codes and regulations from the state. After making a few adjustments, the final draft was presented to and unanimously approved by the Commonwealth of Kentucky Public Protection Cabinet
Board members.

One major change to the codes was to exempt private events with less than 1,000 attendees, held on public or private property, from permit and site plan requirements. However, any private event with attendance over 1,000 people will still be subject to permit and site
plan specifications.

All public events will continue to need permits, site plans and zoning permits. The Commonwealth of Kentucky also will institute a model tent program that will eliminate having to submit all engineering designs and other materials each time someone applies for a permit.

This system is designed to expedite processing permits and let the tent installer focus on compliance with such things as codes for site placement, interior layout and assembly use. Whoever registers the tent will pay a one-time registration fee for that model tent and the models will be based on width size.

The state model review will include structural frame, wind speed resistance, anchoring details according to IFAI recommendations, manufacturer’s specifications/ installation instructions, seals and signatures on engineered models, flame propagation (retardant) criteria for coverings, assigning a Kentucky model number, a model approval fee of $250 and site placement fees. The model tent program, Bryant said, helps eliminate repetitive filing and inspections for both the state and rental businesses.

“It’s a win-win for both groups,” he said.

The state also included an equation to determine evacuation regulation. “Now, once the wind reaches 75 percent of the wind load of the tent, it needs to be evacuated, so for a 60-mph wind load-rated tent, evacuation must occur when the wind gets to 45 mph,” Bryant said. “They also are looking forward to seeing ARA’s Statement of Best Practices of Emergency Evacuation Planning for Tented Events.”

Kentucky also introduced the “Non-certified Tent Reaction Factor,” a formula to determine the minimum anchoring force a non-certified tent may require based on the tent size and other factors.

Bryant said the process has been positive for everyone involved. “The state wanted to be sure they were consistent and they were looking for a solution that was equitable for everyone. That’s exactly what we wanted. When we brought everyone in and IFAI presented the staking study, it showed we were professional,” Bryant said. “In their quest to make the right decisions and their forethought to share and seek more information from the state of Indiana, they showed their utmost concern and respect for the state and the event rental industry in Kentucky. They went the extra mile and I appreciate it.”