Lighting, Pyrotechnics, Fireworks, Lasers, And Strobes

Lighting For Emergency Evacuation And Accident Prevention 

The general lighting for the audience/ guests must be bright enough to see the aisles leading to the exits so everyone can evacuate quickly and to prevent people from tripping or falling. Lighting is also important for security reasons and the MIT Police detail will address this.

The following can not be turned off or covered up during an event:

  • Lighting fixtures that are on the emergency circuit
  • Exit signs

If mood lighting is used, someone must be assigned to stay at the control panel so the lights can be turned up immediately if the fire alarm is activated.

Unusual Lighting Or Visual Effects

If you plan to use unusual lighting or visual effects, determine how this will be done safely and how the regulations/ guidelines will be met. Then have this reviewed by the following depts.: 

  • CAC’s Technical Advisor if the event will take place in a CAC space.
  • Theatre Arts Director or Technical Director reviews all theatrical productions. 
  • If the event will be in another area on campus, contact EHS.

Lighting equipment (especially high intensity) must be UL rated and positioned so curtains, decorations, etc are not ignited. Refer to decorations & extension cord sections. 

Pyrotechnics & Fireworks

These are not permitted at MIT events. This is in compliance with the Mass Fire Prevention regulations-

Mass. State Fire Marshal asks the citizens of Massachusetts to leave the fireworks to the professionals. This includes all types of fireworks including sparklers.  The regulation states it is illegal for private citizens to use, possess, or sell fireworks in Massachusetts, or to purchase them legally elsewhere and then transport them into the state.  (Massachusetts General Law, Ch. 148 S. 39)

Please also be advised that the throwing or shooting of fireworks off the rooftops is strictly prohibited. This could seriously injure the people below and ignite fires wherever the fireworks land.
The National Safety Council advises that the best way to safely enjoy this 4th of July is to watch a public fireworks display conducted by professionals.  This is based on the following statistics.  In 2006, an estimated 9,200 people were treated in emergency rooms for fireworks-related injuries, 36 percent of whom were under 15 years old. Children between the ages of 10 and 14 were at three times the risk of fireworks injuries than the general population. About a third of the injuries were from small firecrackers, 21 percent from bottle rockets and 20 percent from sparklers. In 2004, fireworks caused $21 million in direct property damage.


Your safety plan to use lasers must be reviewed by the Radiation Protection Program (617) 452-3477,   This applies to lasers used both inside and outside. A licensed operator will control the laser.

Strobe Lighting 

Strobe lighting can cause seizures and therefore it should be used in compliance with the recommendations of the Epilepsy Foundation and MIT EH&S Office: 

  • 2 Hertz, Flicker rate of 4 flashes per second or less, interrupted and synchronize multiple strobes. MIT EH&S recommends that the strobe equipment be operated by a licensed person.
  • Notify Guests by including prominent information in the advertising and program. Also, post a large sign at each entrance to the event location that states:  

Strobe lighting will be used in this production. Those with known sensitivity to strobe light should avoid viewing the (specify the time period or portion) of this show. (Also mention if there are other unusual effects that could startle/ disturb the audience, such as gunfire.)

Theatrical Events

Set designs and construction for all theatrical events must be reviewed and approved prior to construction by CAC’s Technical Advisor and/ or Theatre Arts Technical Experts.

Optical Filters