Foam pit fire safety in FranceMozane MOWANE
“Fire norms in France are very strict. How to make a foam pit of a trampoline park conform ?
France is known for its regulations concerning fires in buildings open to the public (ERP). Leisure equipments (playgrounds, trampoline parks, climbing walls, etc.) are considered as large furniture and must meet the requirements of article AM15 of the regulation of June 25th, 1980 for the safety rules against the risks of fire and panic in public buildings. The SDIS – Departmental Fire and Rescue Services (Firemen) thus require that those equipments located indoors, be made of materials of at least M3 category, or of an equivalent or higher classification to category Ds3d1 of the Euroclass according to standard NF EN 13501-1.
However, the foam in foam pit does not benefit from sufficient classification. Often made from polyether, the material used primarily for bedding mattresses, the foam in pits is classified at most M4, or even not classified (or E in Euroclass). It therefore does not meet French requirements.
Nevertheless, it is the only material today that allows acceptable damping when jumping from a trampoline or platforms. The foam blocks, generally 20 cm square cubes placed in a disorderly manner in a pit, compose with the air spaces located in them, a shock-absorbing surface allowing the reception of falls from several meters high. These air spaces are essential, which is why it is necessary to regularly stir and decompress the blocks so that they do not create a compact mattress.
Materials, denser and harder which could be classified M3 would not be sufficiently damping and might cause injuries. Some manufacturers have tried to coat foam blocks but these become too hard, or create burns if rubbed. Plastic ball pool also do not properly stop falls; the balls move apart and the jumpers can reach the bottom of the pit easily, which is unacceptable. Americans who have been using foam pits for over 20 years are still using polyether foam blocks.
A foam pit is an essential activity in trampoline parks: it allows you to train and master simple acrobatic figures. If the jumper does it wrong, it is better for him to fall flat in the foam rather than between 2 trampoline beds. Please note, a trampoline park is not a gym club, technical or complicated acrobatics such as the triple jump must be prohibited. It is necessary that the pit is constantly supervised by at least one employee to ensure that the jumpers remain within the limits of their competence.
It is therefore currently impossible to find materials that comply with fire standards and allow the safe reception of jumpers. We must therefore offer French firemen another approach to fire risk:
– on one hand, there should be no heat source under or near the pit: no electric cable, no motor, no heating… You should also avoid the proximity of a kitchen, or to place a wall fire break between the risky zone and the foam pit. There is therefore no reason for a fire to break out in a pit.
– the capacity of a pit is very low, limited to the capacity of the games (trampoline beds, platform, beam, etc.): when a player falls into the pit, you have to wait until he has left it for another player can start playing. In case of fire, the pit will be evacuated very quickly.
– the foam pit is permanently supervised by park employees. If an evacuation is necessary, the employee can possibly help a player to get out of the pit, and will ensure that there are no more players in it.
The fire risk is therefore very limited and firemen most often share this analysis. However, as article AM15 is not respected, it is preferable to offer a compensatory measure such as the installation of a fire extinguisher near each foam pit. This extinguisher of course must be placed so as not to create a risk of shock or injury for players. An angle in the protective nets can be a good place. As an option, a shock-absorbing coating around the extinguisher will ensure the safety of the players.
Play In Business has been able to install foam pitsin most of its trampoline parks, with a high level of safety and with the approval of the firemen.