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Red Tagged!

I recently got a phone call from a friend who was in a bit of a jam. He was setting up a stage for an outdoor show when the local electrical inspector (authority having jurisdiction or AHJ) was poking around, watching what was going on, and looking at the labels on the gear. Suddenly, the inspector decided he was going to red tag the power (turn it off, lock it out, and put a tag on it saying something to the effect that it can't be removed under pentaly of jail time) because it wasn't listed for outdoor use.

I could tell that my buddy was panicking because if the AHJ didn't allow the use of the gear, the show could not go on and he would lose a lot of money.

"Relax," I said. "There is an article in the NEC (National Electrical Code) that allows the use of portable stage and studio lighting equipment and portable power distribution equipment that is not listed for outdoor use under certain circumstances."

I texted him the Article.

Article 520.10 Portable Equipment Used Outdoors. Portable stage and studio lighting equipment and portable power distribution equipment not identified for outdoor use shall be permitted for temporary use outdoors, provided the equipment is supervised by qualified personnel while energized and barriered from the general public.

According to the NEC, a qualified person is "One who has skills and knowledge related to the construction and operation of the electrical equipment and installations and has received safety training to recognize and avoid the hazards involved." (If you've ever taken one of my electrics classes, then it could be argued that you are qualified personnel. If not, then check out the upcoming classes at

My friend took this information and politely pointed out Article 520.10 to the AHJ. Lo and behold, he grunted and said he would allow it as long as it was under supervision. The show went off on time and disaster was narrowly avoided. It pays to familiarize yourself with the NEC. At the very least, read Article 520: Theaters, Audience Areas of Motion Picture and Television Studios, Performance Areas, and Similar Locations.

August 2003 017_edited.jpg


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