Open Forum

1.  Flash Pots

Posted 02-15-2014 17:57
I would like to use a flash pot.  I would like to know how safe they are.  I'm sure my school would not allow it if they thought it could be a safety hazard.  Also, will the smoke set off a fire alarm?  How much do they cost?  What is the name of a reliable company.

Linda Button


2.  RE:Flash Pots

Posted 02-16-2014 11:59
I have never worked with a flash pot personally, but here is some information I have found. 

Safety- From what I have read, renting/ purchasing a commercial flash pot, automatically increases the safety. 

"A common low-budget pyrotechnic flash pot is built using modified screw-in electric fuses in a common light fixture. The fuses are intentionally blown, acting as ignitors for a pyrotechnic material.

Homemade devices may fail to include safety features and can provide numerous hazards, including:

  • A firing circuit using high-power, non-isolated AC line voltage can be a shock hazard to the operator and bystanders.
  • The use of high-current fuses as ignitors can cause main circuit breakers and fuses to trip, due to the sudden inrush of hundreds of amperes through a dead-shorted circuit. Switches used to control ignition may be damaged from the high-current surges.
  • There may not be indicators or interlocks preventing premature ignition of the pyrotechnic material. Screwing a powder-loaded fuse into an unknowingly powered socket will result in immediate ignition, injuring the operator.

Commercial flash pots include safety features such as warning pilot lamps, preignition grounding, and safing circuits. They also use isolated and low-voltage power sources, and have keyed power connections to help prevent accidental ignition." 

Consistency seems to be a big factor in the safety of the device. Many websites recommend a crew specifically for the pyrotechnics. Also, it is recommended that pyrotechnics have their own rehearsals. 

Price- It seems like the price varies depending on the size and type of flash pot you get. 

I am not sure about the fire alarms or a reliable company to get it from. I do know someone who works with Zenith Pyrotechnology. He is wonderful and has done amazing pyrotechnics. I would think that they might have some more information and specifics, they have done a wide range of pyrotechnics. Here is their e-mail info@...

Hope this helps some! 

Katie Siegel
ITO Chair


3.  RE:Flash Pots

Posted 02-16-2014 12:01
Here is another article on Flash Pots specifically.

Katie Siegel
ITO Chair


4.  RE:Flash Pots

Posted 02-16-2014 13:06
I would check with the Fire Marshall and the school safety department before I started work on the flash pot.


John Perry
Drama/ Humanities Instructor
Atherton High School


5.  RE:Flash Pots

Posted 02-16-2014 16:42
I have used flash pots on stage and have purchased materials from

I always have a 21+ adult backstage with a fire extinguisher with the pin out and ready to go if needed. I have never needed them.

Also, the fire marshal can be an asset if you call and ask, how can I make this happen rather than is it OK. I have found that if they believe you will do it anyway they help you do it safely.

Sometimes the smallest effects can be the best a ring spark with a bit of flash paper and flash cotton are amazingly effective at looking dangerous and not being dangerous.

Good luck, Leslie
Leslie Van Leishout
Theater Education Coordinator
Southern Illinois University Edwardsville


6.  RE:Flash Pots

Posted 02-17-2014 11:10
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The use of any type of pyrotechnic device is highly discouraged.  In most jurisdictions the Fire Marshal must (not an optional decision) approve the effect, and the operator of the effect typically must have a special license to execute the effect.  Your school's Risk Manager (from an insurance perspective) and Safety Officer (assuming they are anything but a glorified off-duty police officer - many persons with this title have no training in safety, they only provide security services) may want to weigh-in on this decision, too.

The concern for safety is VERY REAL.  If you need a refresher, go read-up about The Station Nightclub fire that killed 100 people in less than 10 minutes.  John Barylick's book "Killer Show" is an amazing, and sobering read.

If your stage anything is like 99.9% of the stages I visit, the costumes, set pieces, platforms, drapes, and props are all fabricated from combustible materials and they probably have not treated any of them with fire retardants as required by the NFPA 101 Life Safety Code, Chapters 12 and 13.  Also read-up about the Iroquois Theatre Fire.  This was the instigation for theatre-related fire codes over 100 years ago, and many of the theatres I visit have not learned a single thing from this:
  • Combustible Scenery, Props, Costumes.
  • Blocked Fire Egress Routes and Exit Doors.
  • Fire Doors with latches defeated.
  • Fire Doors with automatic closers defeated.
  • Fire Doors propped-open.
  • Fire Doors locked (No operable emergency egress hardware).
  • Smoke Vents inoperable and have not been inspected semi-annually.
  • Fire Curtains that are not functional and have not been inspected annually.
  • Emergency Lighting Systems that are not fully functional.
  • Fire Extinguishers missing, not marked, and/or inaccessible.
  • No Trained Crowd Managers (1 per 250 persons per NPFA 101 Life Safety Code)
I've personally experienced mis-fired unauthorized home-made flash-pots that did permanent hearing damage to hundreds of audience members and destroyed thousands of dollars of loudspeakers due to the blast pressure wave.  Flash Pots can be very unpredictable - and the people that load them are even more unreliable.

Do you really want to risk this?

Consider alternatives:  Strobes for the Flash, sound effects for the Boom, and cued atmospheric effects for the Smoke.

If you involve atmospheric effects in your shows, you should bring-in your school's fire alarm company to supervise some tests with the atmospheric effects, as some smoke detection systems can be false-triggered.  You need to test this with the HVAC On and Off as this significantly changes the way the smoke propagates through the venue.  This can lead to a VERY BIG FINE unless you have made prior arrangements with the Fire Department.

You don't want the effects to drift into the audience as this can trigger breathing problems for some audience members.

You don't want the effects to mask the front of the stage apron if there are actors in the area as this can disorient them and they might inadvertently step off of the stage edge, fall, and be injured.

Erich Friend
Theatre Consultant
Teqniqal Systems

7.  RE:Flash Pots

Posted 02-19-2014 07:10
Thank you for all of the responses.  I have decided flash pots are not the way to go right now. I like this forum!

Linda Button