Updated September 1, 2017

The purpose of this procedure is to provide oversight to ensure the safe use of tents on campus.  DLC’s should contact Campus Activities Complex (CAC) at least 2 weeks before their event to reserve an outdoor space (use the Virtual EMS )  If you hire CAC, they will rent the tent(s) or you can contact a preferred vendor.  Any safety related questions should be vetted to Mike Foley, Associate Director of Operations for CAC.


The preferred vendors (listed below) handle the following requirements: 

  • Contact Dig Safe and BSI to survey the underground utilities surveyed before any stakes are driven into the ground.  This must be done each time.
  • Provide documentation that the tent complies with the fire retardant requirements of the Mass. Fire Prevention and State Building Code. 
  • Obtain the necessary building permit, which should be posted on site during the event. Go to Cambridge Inspectional Services during their walk-in hours.
  • Post Exit signs at each exit.
  • Have the adequate number of exits for the number of occupants. Refer to next section for details. Locate the exits at opposite ends/ sides. Exits must be easy to open and move through. The use of flaps that are buckled or snapped does not meet the requirements of an exit door. A canopy at the exit is helpful.
  • Tie Flags on to the ropes and/ or stakes so people will see these tripping hazards.
  • Provide a food service tent that is at least 12 feet high canopy without sides. It  should not be over cooking equipment/grills.
  • Be on site or respond quickly to dismantle the tent in case the wind speed is causing the tent to sway excessively.
  • Insurance: The preferred vendors have provided MIT with certifcates of insurance as part of their contract. If you hire another vendor, then you must have the MIT Insurance Office approve the vendor's certifcate of insurance. 


Calculate what size tent you need

First work with CAC or Conference Services to clarify the needs of your event before contacting the vendor. The preferred vendors will assist MIT event planners to determine what size tent is needed for each event.  This may be slightly different than the results of these calculations. These formulas are from the current Mass. code. Tents are in the assembly category and the seating isn’t fixed like an auditorium.


Tables and chairs:  total # of square feet under the tent divided by 15 square feet for each person 

Chairs only: total # of square feet under the tent divided by 7 square feet for each person

Example: A 80' x 100' tent holds 533 people if there are tables and chairs. It holds 1142 people if there are only chairs


Calculate how many exits you need

For 200-499 people, 3 exits are required. The width of each exit is 72 inches.

For 500-999 people, 4 exits are required. The width of each exit is 96 inches.

For 1000-1999 people, 5 exits are required. The width of each exit is 120 inches.



The Cambridge Fire Dept prohibits the use of propane and kerosine heaters. Check if the tent vendor can provide a diesel generator and hot air blowers. If not, refer to 3rd bullet point below.


Tent "canopies" for Car exhibits

The event planner should first obtain permission from CAC and/or Grounds Service to use the space.  Small tents canopies (without sides) must not be set up in a fire lane or against a building. Determine if you need to contact Dig Safe, as described in the 1st bullet in the top section of this page. 


It is the responsibility of the CAC (Mike Foley and his designee CAC Managers) to do the following if the tent is in a CAC space. If it is not, then refer to the roles section below.

  • If the tent will be up overnight, contact MIT Police to arrange for a detail. This will provide security and fire safety in lieu of automatic fire detection or alarm.
  • Collaborate with MIT EHS to do a Safety review of activities, if applicable.
  • If lights, power and/ or heat is needed, contact Dept. of Facilities Electrical/ Controls to arrange this. Note: Your CAC/ Conference Services Coordinator will contact DOF.
  • Request smoker posts be set up 5 feet away from each exit. These are provided by Facilities Grounds Dept.

Refer to Drapes and Linens



  • Conference Services Coordinator will arrange to have all of the above done for their clients. 
  • Event Planners and/or Hosts are responsible for the above tasks if they did not hire CAC or Conference Services or if the event is in an area that CAC does not own. 
  • CAC handles this for Commencement and other large events.
  • Procurement identifies orders for tents when DLCs rent these directly.  They refer the DLC to CAC.

Evacuate The Tent In Case Of Lightning/ Thunder

If you can hear thunder, you are within striking distance of lightning. Evacuate everyone from the tent(s) to the nearest  large building. Do not go under tall trees for shelter. There is no place outside that is safe during a thunderstorm. Wait at least 30 minutes after hearing the last thunder before leaving the building.

Reserve a room where the event could be held inside if the weather forecast includes thunderstorms.


Preferred Vendors (Each vendor is currently under a preferred partnership agreement with MIT and offers consistent discounts and services across campus.)

Christian Party Rental

Peak Event Services (formerly Peterson's Party)

Access Tent