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Fire Safe Services Ltd is the star of the show at the Palace Theatre
Fire Safe Services is the star of the show at the Palace Theatre
For over 100 years the Palace Theatre in Redditch has acted as a focal point for live music, drama, dance and comedy in the town. When it needed a new public address and voice alarm (PA/VA) system, technology from Gent by Honeywell was installed to ensure that the show always goes on.

Located in the very heart of the Worcestershire town of Redditch, the Grade II listed Palace Theatre was built by the respected theatre architect, Bertie Crewe, and opened in August 1913. The building was also used as a variety hall, a cinema, a roller-skating rink, and a bingo hall but since 1971 it has been used exclusively as a theatre.

New and improved

A major restoration then took place in 2005 when the auditorium was returned to its original Edwardian splendour and the foyers of the theatre were demolished and rebuilt with much improved facilities. Now managed by Redditch Borough Council, the Palace Theatre is able to accommodate 420 people and boasts modern comforts including an intimate bar for pre-show and interval drinks, a lift to all floors and disabled access to most areas of the building.

During the 2005 makeover, a PA/VA system was installed to offer the most effective way for staff and visitors to evacuate the building in an emergency. Tim Mackrill, theatre manager at the Palace Theatre, takes up the story and says, ‘The PA/VA system proved to be a highly useful tool through the theatre, as not only is it a vital part of our life safety infrastructure, it also allows us to play music and send messages to staff around the building. However, after over 10 years of almost daily use, it was evident that we needed an upgrade, so I called upon our life safety infrastructure partner, Fire Safe Services, to recommend a new system.’

Also based in Bromsgrove, Fire Safe Services Ltd offers a wide range of services to customers including major retail outlets, shopping centres, facilities maintenance companies, councils, government establishments and many other commercial businesses. Nick Fenton, the company’s managing director, comments, ‘Although the previous system had served its purpose well, we felt that PA/VA technology had moved on significantly since it was installed. We are also proud of our designation as a Gent 24 System Integrator and have installed the company’s products and systems in a diverse array of applications. Therefore, I was confident that its state-of-the-art technology would meet the needs of the Palace Theatre.’

Reaction time

Studies have highlighted that some people do not always react quickly to a traditional fire alarm. PA/VA is therefore becoming increasingly popular as it can inform occupants exactly what to do in an emergency and the correct action to take.

After carrying out a full risk assessment, Fire Safe Services recommended a Comprio D1 solution, which combines advanced audio management with a flexible architecture in a compact design. Nick Fenton states, ‘From previous experience we knew that this solution could communicate a range of messages clearly, unambiguously, and could manage complicated evacuation strategies in the event of an emergency. The system we installed utilises a custom rack configuration that houses the Comprio unit itself, as well as the digital output module (DOM), amplifier, visual control module (VCM), universal interface module (UIM) and system communication unit (SCU).’

The PA/VA is controlled and managed in a central location and in the event of an alarm situation a member of the Palace Theatre team will investigate and then take appropriate action, including calling the emergency services if necessary. Members of staff have also been trained to ensure that the PA/VA system is used to annunciate the correct evacuation guidance.

Curtain raiser

The new system has worked perfectly since installation and the Palace Theatre’s Tim Mackrill summarises, ‘The Comprio D1 has been excellent and 100 per cent reliable. We want our visitors to be safe and this technology gives me every confidence that they will be. The use of a voice evacuation system means that clear directions can be provided to people in the building in the case of an emergency and prompt action taken – all of which could potentially save lives. It also has the added benefit that actors can listen to the live performance through speakers that are installed in their dressing rooms and therefore hear their cues to get on stage!’