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Guidelines for the Use of Tent/Canopy

The following guidelines are based on the requirements of SUNY Plattsburgh for the use of tents/canopies on any of its properties. Assistance in using these guidelines and meeting the requirements is available from the Environmental Health & Safety’s (EH&S) Code Coordinator. Phone: (518) 564-5009


The Facilities Code Coordinator shall inspect any tent/canopy to determine compliance with this guideline.

Any violations of the NYS Fire Prevention and Building Code must be corrected prior to the use of the tent, or immediately if discovered during the event. Call 518-564-5016 to make a request.

Flame Resistance and Structure

All tent/canopy fabric must be flame resistant.

A certificate or other proof of approval by a testing laboratory is acceptable as evidence of the required fire resistance. A copy of the certificate must be provided to EH&S Office and Code Coordinator upon request. These certificates are available from the tent/canopy supplier.

Tent/canopy suppliers must be able to certify that tents have been erected in accordance with manufacturer recommendations, industry standards, and code requirements.

Floor Covering

The area enclosed by any tent and not less than 10 feet outside of such tent/canopy must be cleared of all flammable or combustible material or vegetation. Prior to erecting the tent the premises must be kept free from such flammable or combustible materials during the period for which the area is used.

No hay, straw, shavings, or similar combustible materials are permitted within any tent unless they have been treated to make them flame retardant. A certificate or other proof of approval by a testing laboratory indicating that the material has been properly treated is acceptable as evidence. A copy of certificates must be provided to EH&S office and the Code Coordinator prior to placing the material within a tent. These certificates are available from the material manufacturer or supplier.

Exits and Occupant Load for Enclosed Tents

Tents that have sides attached and rolled up or are capable of being enclosed must meet these requirements even if it is intended for the tent to remain unenclosed during the event.

The number of separate exits required for enclosed tents is based on the floor area of the tent. The maximum number of occupants, called the occupant load, is also based on the floor area of the tent.

Tent Requirements
Occupant Load * Number of Exits Minimum Width/Exit
10 to 100 2 72
200 to 499 3 72
500 to 999 4 96
1,000 to 1,999 5 120

* Maximum. Based on 7 sq. ft/person.

The occupant load is decreased when tables and chairs are used (banquet style) – the number of required exits remains the same because exits are based on floor area.  The following  calculations will determine the occupant load with tables and chairs:

Net square footage of tent floor area/15 = occupant load with tables and chairs

Example: The number of occupants allowed, with tables and chairs, in a 50’x50’ tent with 10’x20’ storage.

2,500 square feet (floor area) – 200 square feet (stage area)/15 = 153 persons

PLEASE NOTE: The calculations are for planned purposes only and do not represent a legal capacity.  The EH&S office will provide legal capacities based on submitted set-up lans.

Each exit must be provided with an exit sign.  The work “EXIT” must be plainly legible in letters at least 6 inches high and with strokes not less than ¾ inch wide.  If the tent is to be occupied after sunset, emergency lighting  must be provided. In most cases, the tent company can provide exit signs and emergency lighting.

Exit Requirements for All Tents

  1. The minimum width of an exit must not be less than 36 inches.
  2. Guy wires or guy ropes must not cross an exit at a height of less than 7 feet.
  3. Where tents are placed near fences or other obstructions, a clear path must be maintained to an area sufficiently away from the tent.
  4. Tent stakes must be railed off, capped, or covered.

Fire Protection

One portable fire extinguisher (dry chemical, ABC type) must be furnished at each exit of an enclosed tent.  The University sponsor for the event using the tent is responsible for ensuring that fire extinguishers are provided. If necessary, arrangements for portable fire extinguishers may be made by contacting the EH&S office at 518-564-5009.

Smoking is prohibited in any tent.

Pyrotechnics, open flames (including use of sterno and other food warming devices),  and cooking equipment must be approved in advance by Facilities office. Commercial cooking equipment such as grills and broilers, when used within a tent, must meet the same requirements for indoor commercial kitchens (i.e. proper ventilation, fire suppression systems).


The electrical system and equipment must be isolated from the public by proper elevation or guarding. All electrical fuses and switches must be enclosed in approved enclosures. Cables on the ground, in areas traveled by the public must be placed in trenches or protected by approved covers (yellow jackets, etc.).

All electrical systems must be properly grounded.

Generators must be placed so that exhaust fumes do not enter tents.,


All Tent structures require a building permit.  The permit process shall be submitted per the SUNY Plattsburgh Building Permit Process.

Submit a SUNY Plattsburgh Tent/Canopy Application and Permit Form (PDF file 70KB) to the Facilities Planning Office (Code Compliance Manager) with a copy to EH&S ( Code Coordinator).  The Code Compliance Manager will issue a permit after review and return to applicant with a copy to EH&S.

Refer to Fire Code of New York State 2010 (see below) for additional requirements and regulations

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