What happened at CPAC on Friday night?

Published: 10 Apr 2019

What happened at CPAC on Friday night?

What happened

There were a couple of technical issues on Friday night (5 April) at the Cairns Performing Arts Centre (CPAC) when both theatres were operating. The studio was screening a film with 233 patrons in attendance and the main theatre was hosting The Sapphires with 537 patrons in attendance.

At about 7.40pm, just after the commencement of The Sapphires show, a fire alarm was triggered. As per our evacuation process, all patrons were evacuated to the front of the building while the Queensland Fire and Emergency Services (QFES) investigated the incident.

QFES determined that the incident was a false alarm and there was no danger in reoccupying the building. The all clear was given to the Patron Services Supervisor and patrons were allowed to re-enter the building.

Complimentary drinks were offered to patrons while staff and technicians made ready both auditoriums for patrons to return. Patrons were allowed to re-enter the studio and main theatre at around 8.15pm and the performances recommenced almost immediately.

Why did the fire alarm trigger?

The Fire Contractor working for the construction company, FKG, left the fire panel in “non-performance mode” during routine fire maintenance and checks. Consequently, once theatre smoke from the stage show was detected in the chamber it activated the fire alarm and the fire brigade call out.

To date many performances have used theatre smoke without incident, demonstrating that CPAC’s intelligent detectors work.

Unfortunately human error has caused this issue.

What have we done to ensure it does not happen again?

The Fire Contractor has recommended changes to the fire panel, such as the fault indicator light, to ensure the mode of operation is clear to all users.The Fire Contractor will also make internal staff changes to ensure only their most senior technicians work on the panel.

The evacuation

Following a review of CCTV footage, we now know that it took 6 minutes and 50 seconds to evacuate the entire main theatre and studio theatre.

The current Fire Safety Plan allows up to 11 minutes to evacuate the building so the building was evacuated in just over half of the time allowed for in the Fire Safety Plan.

What improvements have we identified to improve our evacuation procedure?

Because the foyer PA is inoperable during evacuations, announcements could not be easily made to patrons, so we will procure a megaphone to ensure we have better ability to communicate with patrons.

We have also identified that caps or helmets would assist wardens being more easily seen by patrons in an evacuation situation as some Patron Services staff are short and could not be easily seen in a crowded situation.

We will also be scheduling an additional training session at the start of the next shift to run through any outcomes with staff from this incident and recommendations from QFES.

Audio issues

Apart from the interruption due to the false alarm, unfortunately The Sapphires show had to be called off in the second act due to audio issues.

About 10 minutes prior to the end of The Sapphires first act, interference began to come through the PA system. The sound was a random pop or hiss that may have lasted a few seconds before stopping and then reoccurring five or 10 seconds later. This continued until the end of act one when interval started and the PA was able to be turned down.

During interval the touring productions technicians and CPAC technicians started fault finding the cause.

The audience returned from interval after 20 minutes but the sound fault still had not been identified. 10 minutes into the second act, it became apparent that no firm solution could be found and the decision was made to cancel the performance.

While patrons were leaving the auditorium announcements were made over the foyer PA inviting patrons to attend Saturday’s performances or contact Ticketlink for a refund. Contact details for Ticketlink were handed out and complimentary drinks were offered.

Both scheduled Saturday performances went ahead with no incident.

What was the root cause of the audio issues for The Sapphires?

The touring production’s radio microphone equipment failed.

What have we done to ensure it does not happen again?

We are undertaking a full wireless systems scan across all frequencies used by CPAC technicians and their equipment and external production companies and their equipment to ascertain if there are any black spots or low reception areas in the building. This will also include the wireless spectrum scan for wifi.

We are genuinely sorry

We apologise for the inconvenience caused to patrons on Friday evening. We are genuinely sorry. We know it is not ideal however we are working as hard as we can to understand what went wrong and to ensure it does not happen again.

Last updated: 10 April 2019