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Policy No: 2055
Responsible Office: Safety & Environmental Compliance
Last Review Date: 02/10/2022
Next Required Review: 02/10/2027
Policy No: 2055
Responsible Office: Safety & Environmental Compliance
Last Review Date: 02/10/2022
Next Required Review: 02/10/2027

Tent and Canopy Permits

1. Purpose

This document provides information and establishes general precautions for individuals or groups that plan to use tent or canopies on University of South Alabama property. It provides a single source document of measures required for the safe use of tents and canopies.

2. Applicability

This policy is applicable to any department, society, company or individual that plans to use tents or canopies on any USA property.

3. Definitions

Tent: A structure, enclosure or shelter constructed of fabric or pliable material supported by any manner except by air or the contents that it protects.

Canopy: A structure, enclosure or shelter constructed of fabric or pliable materials supported by any manner, except by air or the contents it protects and is open without sidewalls or drops on 75% or more of the perimeter.

Flame-resistant treatment: A flame retardant that is applied to (or material that is composed of flame-resistant material) applied to tents, air-supported, air-inflated or tensioned membrane structures, and their appurtenances, sidewalls, drops and tops of temporary membrane structures, canopies, tarpaulins, floor coverings, bunting, combustible decorative materials and effects, including sawdust when used on floors or passageways and meets NFPA 701 standards.

4. Policy Guidelines

4.1  Introduction

Tents and canopies may only be erected in approved locations with permission from the entity that owns or controls the space. All tents/canopies erected on USA’s Main Campus regardless of the dimensions must have a USA Dig Permit completed and approved when utilizing tent stakes larger than 12 inches for anchoring purposes. Contact USA Maintenance Department to start the dig permit process two weeks or 10 business days prior to the event. Final approval of tent permits rests with the Safety & Environmental Compliance Office.

4.2  Guidelines and Limitations 

All tents and canopies having an area of 400 sq. ft. or greater require a Tent Permit submitted for application and approval process. (See Related Document Section of this policy for the web address.)

The tent/canopy and decorative materials shall be flame-resistant or treated with a flame-resistant material. A certificate label or affidavit of treatment must be on location with structure. All Tents/canopies, regulated by this policy, must stay 10 ft. from property lot lines, buildings, other temporary membrane structures, other tents and canopies, parked vehicles or internal combustion engines. For the purpose of determining required distances, support ropes and guy wires shall be considered as part of the temporary membrane structure, tent or canopy.

Cooking equipment, utilizing open flame, fire or heat, is not permitted under a tent/canopy unless prior approval has been granted by the Safety & Environmental Compliance Department. No smoking is allowed inside the tent/canopy.

Portable fire extinguishers are required for all tents/canopies. A minimum of one ABC extinguisher is required. Rental service companies to provide fire extinguishers for rental tents based on the tent’s dimensions and use. Aisles and exits must be clear and unobstructed during tent/canopy occupancy.

Hay, straw, shavings, or similar combustible materials shall not be located within any tent/canopy designated as Assembly Occupancy. Sawdust and shavings, utilized for an approved public performance or exhibit, shall not be prohibited provided the sawdust and shaving are kept damp. Combustible materials shall not be permitted understands or seats at any time. The areas within and adjacent to the tent/canopy shall be maintained clear of all combustible materials or vegetation that could create a fire hazard within 10- ft. from the structure. Combustible trash shall be removed at least once a day from the structure during the period the structure is occupied by the public.

All appliances, spotlights, lighting, and sound systems shall be powered by electricity only and may require a separate electrical permit. The use of a generator is acceptable if approved by Safety and Environmental Compliance. All tents/canopies shall be adequately roped, braced, and anchored to withstand the elements of weather and prevent against collapsing. Anchors must be marked with warning tape and or painted.

Tents/canopy permits are granted for each event. Prior approval must be given for tents erected for extended periods.

4.3  Occupant Capacity

    • The occupant capacity shall be determined by dividing the floor area of the tent structure by (7);
      • Example: a 400 sq. ft. tent will allow an occupant load of 400/7 = 57 occupants.
    • Tents/canopies, utilizing side panels, must have at least the minimum number of required exits as listed below;
    • Tents/canopies with occupant loads of 50 or more will also require exit signs that are either self- luminous or illuminated by internal/external fixtures:
      • 10-199 persons - 2 exits required;
      • 200-499 persons - 3 exits required;
      • 500-999 persons - 4 exits required;
      • 1,000 or more persons - contact Safety & Environmental Compliance.

4.4  Cooking Restriction

Open flame or other devices emitting flame, fire or heat or any other flammable or combustible liquids, gas, charcoal or other cooking device or any other unapproved devices shall not be permitted inside or located within 10 feet of a tent or other structure while open to the public unless approved by Safety & Environmental Compliance.

Safety & Environmental Compliance Office will review and determine approval to cook in a limited size tent when a Fire and Life Safety Inspection confirms all of the following criteria:

    • Area of tent, canopy or awning is 12 ft. x 12 ft. (144 sq. ft.) or less;
    • Tent, canopy or awning material does not pose a fire hazard;
    • Separation of 10 ft. minimum from other tents or structures is maintained;
    • The approved structure is placed on solid ground free of hay, straw or similar combustible materials;
    • Cooking and heating equipment has approved separation from exits and combustible materials;
    • Class K fire extinguisher readily accessible and available for use;
    • Class 2A 10BC fire extinguisher readily accessible and available for use;
    • The Location of vehicles or equipment does not obstruct the means of egress;
    • LP-gas containers shall be located outside with safety release valves pointed away from the tent/ canopy or awning and secured to prevent tipping or roll-over.

4.5  Heaters

Safety & Environmental Compliance Office will review and determine the approval of any heating device.

Temporary Warning: 

All wiring provided or used by the vendor shall be of a sufficient rating for its intended use. Common household extension cords shall not be used. When a utility cord is used, only one device shall be plugged into the cord. Multi-plug adaptors are not approved. Surge protection devices shall be used when multi-plug extensions are needed. GFCI (Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter) adaptors must be utilized when water is present. All cords and adapters must be in good condition without damage to the protective wire casing.

5. Procedures

Not Applicable.

6. Enforcement

This policy is enforced by the Safety & Environmental Compliance Department. Non-compliance may result in the suspension of associated activities and/or projects. Contractors' failure to comply may require removal from University property and potential ineligibility for future bids. University faculty and staff will be subject to disciplinary action per Faculty Handbook or Staff Employee Handbook, respectively.

7. Related Documents

7.1  Dig Permit (doc-route link)

7.2  Tent permit form