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Health and Safety Guide



A place of assembly is any room or space used by 50 or more people for religious, educational, recreational, political, social or amusement purposes, or for the consumption of food and drink. Several fire and life safety issues must be considered by organizers of events during the decoration, use and operation of places of assembly.

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Scope and Application

    The New Jersey Department of Community Affairs’ requirements for places of assembly are found in the Uniform Fire Code and enforced by the municipal fire official. Departments and/or event organizers are responsible for ensuring that these requirements are met during use of any place of assembly.

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Program Description

    Occupancy Limits

    Each place of assembly has a maximum occupancy limit that must not be exceeded at any time. The limit is determined by a number of factors including the floor space, intended use of the space (e.g., will tables and chairs be provided or will everyone be expected to stand), and the availability and capacity of exits. Assistance in determining occupancy limits is available through the University Fire Marshall of the Department of Public Safety. The occupancy limit should be posted near the main exit from the space. Organizers of an event should know the occupancy limit of a space and carefully consider whether the space is adequate during the planning stages. If there is the potential for overcrowding, event organizers should control entry through the use of tickets or find another space that is large enough to accommodate the anticipated crowd size. Events should not begin if the occupancy limit of the space has been exceeded.

    Means of Egress

    The "means of egress" is the continuous and unobstructed path of travel from any point in a place of assembly to an exit or public way (e.g., sidewalk, street, etc.). All parts of the means of egress must be available for immediate, emergency use. Aisles and corridors must be unobstructed. Exit doors must be unlocked. Care must be taken to ensure that the exit discharge is also unobstructed (e.g., not blocked by dumpsters or vehicles, no materials stored against the exit door, all snow removed, etc.). The means of egress should be inspected by event organizers immediately prior to any event. Any problem with the means of egress must be resolved before the space can be occupied.

    Decorative Materials

    Decorative materials include curtains, draperies, streamers, fabrics, cotton batting, straw, hay, vines, leaves, stalks, tress and moss. In general, decorative materials may be used only after being rendered noncombustible. Certain types of decorative materials may be used only with the approval of the municipal fire official.

    Theater Operations

    Theater operations are subject to the same requirements as other places of assembly. However, there are numerous other considerations involved in the production of a theatrical performance that fall outside the scope of this section. The Theater Operations Manual, available through the Office of Environmental Health and Safety (EHS), provides additional safety information for those involved in such activities.

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Roles and Responsibilities

    Department and/or Event Organizer

    • Keep aisles, corridors, and other means of egress unobstructed.
    • Ensure occupancy limit is posted.
    • Consider the adequacy of a space for a planned event and institute control measures to keep occupancy below established limit.
    • Do not allow an event to begin if the occupancy limit has been exceeded.
    • Ensure decorative materials are noncombustible or approved by the local fire official.

    University Fire Marshall

    • Provide assistance in determining occupancy limits and use of decorative materials.

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For More Information

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