Fire prevention measures criticised

Liberal-Socialists demand closure of Bonn opera house

Diese Tür im Treppenhaus ist weniger sicher, als sie aussieht: Sie ist nicht rauchdicht, obwohl sie zum Rettungsweg nach draußen gehört.

This door in the stairwell is not as safe as it looks – it is not smoke-proof even though it is part of the emergency escape route.

Bonn. After inspecting the records, the Liberal-Socialists are calling for an immediate closure of the opera due to breaches of fire regulations. But the city official for culture affairs sees the situation quite differently.

In an open letter to the mayor Ashok Sridharan, the Liberal-Socialists have requested an immediate closure of the Opera House for safety reasons. “To our knowledge, since 2005 many of the fire prevention measures noted by experts have not been applied,” wrote the head of the council fraction Felix Kopinski, who had carried out an inspection of the files. The city also cannot guarantee protection for the building which was opened in 1965. “According to the law, operation of an event location is only permitted if the current safety regulations are met.”

The fraction also alerted the district government as the upper supervisory authority for constructions. “We will request Bonn city council to make an official statement”, confirmed a spokesman for the supervisory authorities on Friday. The list of short-comings in the fire protection measures, which the theatre presented in May during a tour of local politicians, is long: There are no fire alarms in the ground floor foyer. An additional water tank needs to be installed in the basement for the planned sprinkler system. Emergency announcements in case of fire are problematic because of loud echoes. Wooden slats on the wall paneling and the carpet on the first floor are not made of the prescribed low flammability materials. There are no fire alarms in the interval foyers and in the former smoking room. The doors to the theatre require a greater fire resistance class.

There are also many deficiencies with the main emergency escape route, which according to building regulations must be faultless. The steel doors with glass components which are supposed to secure the stairwell opposite the entrance to the stalls do not have any sealing. The red carpet is flammable. The fire protection measures in the Bad Godesberg Kammerspiele are also in a sorry state.

The city council, the fire department and the theatre have been aware of the problems for years. Following regular inspections by the building authorities and the fire department, severe deficiencies were immediately dealt with, says Martin Schumacher, the city official for cultural affairs. Many of the measures were allegedly only possible as part of the renovation of the opera house which is now planned. After completion of the renovation work at the latest, all modern requirements for fire protection must be met. A new fire protection concept will thus need to be determined for the opera house.

According to GA information, after an inspection in June 2014, the fire department and the building supervision clearly warned of having “serious misgivings” about further operation of the opera house. Almost three years later, the list of deficiencies was still so long that the theatre management took the bull by the horns and organised the tour for the politicians.

Likewise, in May Tüv Rheinland wrote to the city council because despite reminders, the deficiencies had been not remedied in time. According to city official Schumacher, it was simply routine: “it concerned the question of whether the holes in the walls had been properly sealed following electric works.” Apparently the Tüv had not been duly informed. The list of deficiencies such as the door sealings and the fire protection dampers will be dealt with during the summer. Schumacher was unable to comment on the current status this week, because the contact person at the opera house on holiday. The cost of the fire security guards required by the city to respond to the deficiencies also remain unclear.

Three people will be deployed for events in the theatre and two for the tours of the workshop stage. Schumacher dismisses the request of the Liberal-Socialists: “there is no danger for employees nor visitors. If the opera or the Kammerspiele were unsafe, we would close them.” (Original text:  Andreas Baumann; Translation: Caroline Pay ne)