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Monday, Mar 30, 2015

Theater prank prompts action


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BROOKSVILLE - When the fire alarm went off late Saturday night at the Beacon Theaters off State Road 50, many patrons remain glued to their seats, not wanting to miss any part of the movie.

Some didn't even hear the voice-activated announcement alarm because of the decibel level of the movie. Others did leave.

It turned out that pranksters broke a sprinkler head and removed fire extinguishers throughout the building, tripping the alarm, and the sheriff's office is investigating.

The incident has also prompted the county fire department to work with the theater management to determine the proper protocol when the fire alarm goes off in the middle of a movie.

Fortunately, nobody was hurt Saturday, although there was about $20,000 in water damage from the damaged sprinkler head.

But Saturday's event provided a teachable moment, according to Hernando County Fire Rescue Assistant Chief Kevin Carroll. His fire prevention division will meet with theater management Friday and recommend three safety precautions:

The state fire code requires the audible voice announcement must be 15 decibels about the ambient sound in the theater to make sure all can hear it when activated. Carroll said his team will check to ensure that code is being met.

Although they can't force management to do it, fire officials will suggest they tie the projectors into the alarm system so that when it goes off, the projectors automatically go off and the lights go on.

Carroll will recommend theater officials evacuate everyone from the building, even it is determined that it is a false alarm.

Carroll stressed that theater management has been "extremely cooperative" and want to do whatever is necessary to enhance safety.

Meanwhile, Sheriff Al Nienhuis said in a press release he is asking anyone with knowledge of the person or persons who set off the alarm to contact his office at (866) 990-TIPS or submit a anonymous tip at www.her

Tipsters will remain anonymous and also be eligible for a reward up to $1,000 cash, according to the sheriff's office.

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