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Fire Protection & Emergency Lighting at the Baxter Theatre

Built in 1976, the Baxter Theatre Centre is a vibrant, multicultural entertainment hub in the Southern Suburbs of Cape Town. Nestled under the striking Devil’s Peak Mountain and at the foot of the University of Cape Town, the Baxter boasts a world-class theatre and concert hall, as well as a studio stage, rehearsal rooms, offices, a restaurant, bars and an impressive foyer.

Prior to hosting a major international show, the Baxter Theatre needed to upgrade their Fire Protection Systems to meet current SANS standards. With only two months before the show, they needed this to be done in 5 theatres and other spaces, for the show to continue.

The FS Group was approached to handle the project, following the long-standing relationship with the University of Cape Town.

The FS Group understood the challenge. The project needed to be completed within two months, with no disruption to productions or rehearsals. The system also needed to be ascetically pleasing.

A project plan was drawn up, and work was scheduled to take place between 11pm and 6am every evening. A team of 20 worked over the two months to ensure work was done on time.

Fire Detector
Fire Detector

The first phase of the project was Fire Detection which included replacing wireways, upgrading 13000 meters of cable, installing Fire Panels, 1200 Smoke Detectors and 70 break glass units.

Part of the fire detection system was to be installed in the backstage areas, which typically have about a 30-meter height clearance.

Normal Point Detection would not work in this situation, so Securiton Aspirating Smoke Detection systems were installed in the backstage areas and Fire Curtains were fitted on the stages.

Aspirating Smoke Detection
Aspirating Smoke Detection

Public Address System
Public Address System

For the public address system, a total of 48 speakers were installed. The Theatre has many big open spaces, so typical speakers could not be installed. Due to the acoustic ceiling in the Foyer, which absorbs sound, the speakers had to be set up accurately to get sound down into the foyer.

Cluster based speakers were chosen and suspended about 20 meters up in the air, so that they did not affect the ascetics.

Phase 1 was completed within the 2-month deadline and approved by the Fire Chief, allowing the show to continue.

Phase 2 of the project was to install Emergency Lighting.

Due to the nature of a theatre and because there is no natural light coming in, when you lose your main source of electricity, the theatre is plunged into total darkness. Another challenge was to keep the theatres dark when they needed to be but still to provide sufficient lighting for escape routes.

Firescape Emergency Lighting
Firescape Emergency Lighting

Firescape Emergency Lighting was installed throughout the theatres, including 321 lights and 8000m of cable.

Not only did this improve the safety of the theatres in case of an emergency but also allowed for better functionality as rehearsals could continue despite of load shedding.

In the past, staff used to manually isolate different systems during showtime and isolating 10 different theatre areas could become quite complex. All theatre areas were now programmed into a Graphics Package, to make managing the system during shows easier and safer, and extensive training was given to Managers.

Now, when a fire alarm triggers in one of the theatres, no audible fire alarms activate, so that no panic is caused. Fire alarms go through to the graphics package at the main control station, and an SMS is sent to every Line Manager on their phones. Once investigated, the fire alarms are cleared and the system returns to normal, so that there is full coverage and protection at all times.

Graphics Package
Graphics Package

The Baxter Theatre now has a newly upgraded, fully functional Fire Detection, Public Address and Emergency Lighting System.

Summary of Equipment:

  • Fire Detection including 2 ZP Fire Panels, 1 Graphics Software Package, 400 Detectors, 4 Securiton Aspirating Systems, 8 Beam Detectors, 67 Combination Strobe Sounders, 26 Break Glass Units and 13000m Ph30 Cable

  • Public Address and Evacuation System including PA Rack, 38 Wall Mounts Speakers, 10 HX-5 Speakers and 7000m of Cable

  • Refuge Intercoms including 1 Master Station and 11 Substations

  • Emergency Lighting including 2 Panels, 321 Lights and 8000m of Cable


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