Will dry ice set off smoke alarms? This is the most common question we hear from venues and clients when it comes to our dry ice machines. This opinion or acute scepticism is because many venues have been caught out before when it comes to fluid based machines. It comes from a history of venues being told by inexperienced or over confident dj’s telling venues that their smoke machine won’t set off a smoke alarm, or they individually believe, that they have the innate power to control the output to a level where it will essentially fly under the radar of recordable levels for a smoke alarm. In the end it is the venue that gets the bad reputation of a disrupted event and a hefty call out bill from the fire department which is a good reason to be sceptical. The main thing to remember is that it really comes down the difference between smoke fluid or Dry Ice CO2 based machines. Smoke fluid based machines use a concentrated liquid made of glycols and water. When heated and expelled by a fog (smoke) machine they produce particles that float in the air which reflect the light to create beams. So in essence what we see are not actually beams of light but millions of particles being lit. It is these particles which get into smoke alarms and set off a smoke alarm. This is because the smoke alarm is looking for particles of ash and fire remnants in the air. Some advanced fire alarms (like those used in nightclubs, theatres and casinos) will look for heat instead of particles thus reducing the risk of false alarms in use with fog machines. Without the use of smoke isolation units and monitoring we DO NOT recommend the use of fluid based machines in any venue with an active fire alarm or smoke detector. Dry Ice is Carbon Dioxide (CO2) which has been frozen and sits at approximately minus -78.5 degrees. CO2 is a naturally occurring gas which is expelled by humans when we exhale. It is a natural gas that forms part of the air we breathe in every day life and is consumed by plant life to turn it back into oxygen via osmosis. When heated Dry ice sublimates from a solid directly to a gas missing the fluid stage. This means that it does not pick up particles along the way. In a somewhat similar way to distilling water for purity. This means that when CO2 Dry Ice is used in a dry ice machine and heated with water the gas released comes out cold and stays low but as it warms to room temperature it is absorbed into the natural breathing air of the room. It does not rise hot nor will it add particles to the air which can be detected or measured by a smoke alarm. So when checking whether your suppliers machine will set off your smoke or fire alarms you must ask the ever important question. What do you put in your machine, Dry Ice or a Fluid? Dry Ice Safety The biggest concern venues and users of dry ice should have is in relation to correct handling of dry ice and its use in confined spaces. Being that dry ice is -78.5 degrees centigrade, there is a high chance of severe burns or frost bite if handled incorrectly or swallowed. It is important that all dry ice is labelled and handled correctly. Ask your provider for a Safety Data Sheet (SDS / MSDS) and for relevant events a Safe Work Method Statement (SWMS) should be completed by your supplier. These documents will provide the necessary safety information and required Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) based on your event. Simple personal protective equipment can include thermal gloves, enclosed leather shoes, long sleeve shirts and safety glasses. When it comes to dry ice safety Confined Spaces cause the highest possible risk. It is a risk that is very much over looked with dry ice and can cause the most serious and tragic consequences. Death by asphyxiation can be caused when the amount of dry ice gas (CO2) out weighs the available room space. This depletes the air of oxygen and can cause head aches, nausea or in the most extreme circumstances, death. All of these result from the lack of breathable oxygen left in a confined space after dry ice is used in excess within a small area. A quick google search will show many unfortunate incidents at the extreme end, including a tragic pool party in Moscow covered by the BBC in this news article. The main thing to remember is to keep dry ice stored correctly, the area ventilated, only use the correct amount of dry ice for the occasion and most importantly follow the SDS and SWMS for your event. If you are unsure of any of these items please contact us and will be happy to help and advise you on your event and usage requirements. Dry Ice Top Tip – Fire Safety CO2 is a very handy fire fighting tool as it deprives a fire of oxygen. It is used in the black banded CO2 fire extinguishers and should be used on Electrical fires and has a limited but valid effect on wood, paper and flammable liquids where better suited fire extinguishers are unavailable.