Environmental Health and Safety

Public Assembly Occupancies

Assembly occupancies include, but are not limited to, all buildings, portions of buildings, or temporary structures such as a tent used for gathering together 50 or more persons for such purposes as deliberation, worship, entertainment, eating, drinking, amusement, awaiting transportation or similar uses, or that are used as a special amusement building regardless of occupant load.

Examples of assembly occupancies found both on and off campus include large auditoriums, sports arenas, fraternity function rooms, theaters, and food service dining areas. In general, fire drills and evacuation planning for classrooms are handled in accordance with the primary occupancy of the building. Please contact EHS at 231-3600 if further guidance is needed on this issue.

Public assembly events involve various risk factors associated with having large numbers of people in one location. The primary risk factors are high occupant density, occupants that are not familiar with the building, occupants who may be impaired due to consumption of alcohol or drugs, and events held where there is limited lighting. These risks can be managed through proper event planning and management. Planning for all events (excluding events planned through the Alumni Association and the Department of Athletics) should begin by contacting the Student Engagement and Campus Life Event Planning Office, or phone 231-5005.

The following are required for all public assembly occupancies:

    1. The employees or attendants of assembly events must be trained in emergency evacuation procedures and practice their duties during fire drills.
    2. Employees assigned fire-fighting duties must also be instructed in the proper use of portable fire extinguishers and other manual fire suppression equipment where provided.
    3. In "live" theaters, motion picture theaters, auditoriums, and other similar assembly occupancies, an audible announcement must be made not more than ten minutes prior to the start of each program to notify occupants of the location of the exits to be utilized in case of fire or other emergency and any other emergency procedures unique for the assembly area.
    4. All assembly areas are required to have signs posted stating the allowable number of persons permitted with considerations given for the use of the space.
    5. If more than 1,000 persons will participate in the event, trained Crowd Managers must be provided at the rate of 1 per 250 persons attending. For example, if 1,500 persons will be attending, six Crowd managers must be present. See the following section for more information.

Crowd Manager Requirements at Virginia Tech

The VSFPC section 403.3 states: “Trained crowd managers shall be provided for facilities or events where more than 1,000 persons congregate. The minimum number of crowd managers shall be established at a ratio of one crowd manager to every 250 persons.” A congregation includes spectators, general public, performers, and event staff. Events that require Crowd Managers shall have a minimum of four Crowd Managers on-duty, and one additional Crowd Manager for every 250 persons over 1,000 persons. For example, an event with 1,000 persons would require four crowd managers; an event with 1,500 would require six crowd managers. One Crowd Manager must be designated as the Principal Crowd Manager.

Virginia Tech Administration, the Virginia Tech Police Department, State Fire Marshal, Environmental Health and Safety (EHS), or the Sponsoring Organization can increase the minimum requirements depending on the venue and the event. The State Fire Marshal can also reduce the requirements depending on the venue, type of event and the fire safety systems that exist in the location of the event.

Crowd Managers must be trained. Training can be arranged by contacting EHS at 231-4207.

For more information on Crowd Manager Requirements, please see the Crowd Managers Guide.

In order to comply with the requirements of the Virginia State Fire Prevention Code, it may be necessary to contact the EHS to request permits and/or approvals for special events. These events include, but are not limited to, hot work operations, open flames and burning activities, pyrotechnics/fireworks, special effects, temporary facilities, and tents and stages. Required approval and inspections must be requested as far in advance as possible. All persons planning public assembly events are encouraged to contact EHS for information and assistance.