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Permit for portable?

Question asked by ricklight on Apr 8, 2016
Latest reply on Apr 12, 2016 by psmith

An inspector recently claimed a permit is needed to set up theatrical lighting. I believe this is not construction activity in any form and no permit is needed.

  • No local codes address the issue directly. It's all pretty straight NFPA70 from the state level on down.
  • This is not 'temporary' it is 'portable' and the time something is in place ranges from hours to years.
  • All luminaires and cords are portable equipment with NRTL listed plugs and connectors, properly powered from OCPDs.
  • The only tool used is a wrench for a mounting clamp and minor luminaire adjustments. image.jpgNo wires in screw terminals, bare copper is never seen unless something goes wrong.
  • Theatrical dimmers and power distribution look a bit weird at first glance, but are NRTL listed and follow NEC in general and 520 specifically, of course. These are available both as permanently installed and portable versions. I'm only talking about the portable side. Large systems are typically powered using single conductors with 'cam-lok' style plugs and receptacles rated to 400A.
  • Best I can find from inside the theatrical side is that only NYC requires an electrician when a Broadway show is being installed. Knowledgeable folks believe its just for the permit fees. Broadway shows are huge projects with lots of money in play. We all know NYC likes their own rules.
  • Inspection is welcome any time of course. We routinely have Fire Chiefs/Marshals/Inspectors/etc on site counting crowds and such.

In my 40 years I've never heard of such a thing. If enforced this could apply to churches using stage lighting (nearly all), bars, event centers, hotel ballrooms and maybe outdoor festivals. Do you realize how many churches and bars are in even small cities? Can you imagine inspections early Sunday morning? One could take the extreme view and say that this would prevent charging your phone at Starbucks!


What I need and can't seem to track down is a clear statement that portable gear being moved around isn't 'electrical construction' and therefore shouldn't require a permit.