JFK Center Questioned

Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts President Michael Kaiser defended the D.C. facility’s fire safety plan during an April 6th House subcommittee meeting on Capitol Hill.

His testimony was in response to a report by the Government Accountability Office that questioned some of the facility’s fire safety protections.

“I believe this building is safe, otherwise I would have shut it down,” Kaiser said.

The GAO analysis pointed out safety concerns in the center’s Grand Foyer, Hall of States and Hall of Nations, which do not have sprinkler and smoke evacuation systems required by the fire code. It voiced concern about the location of fire doors near the Millennium Stages, as well.

The report is also critical of how the Kennedy Center manages its construction projects.

The PAC chief said the report includes “sweeping statements that are misleading,” and that it doesn’t give a valid view of current project management at the center. He added that recommendations from a fire modeling study conducted by fire protection engineers in 2003 are being implemented.

“The life safety code provides for phased implementation of changed standards for existing buildings,” Kaiser said. “The center systematically complies with the current version of building and life safety codes whenever a design contract is awarded.”

He said safety improvements have been made to the tune of $204 million since 1995.

Kaiser also said his ushers are well-trained to help patrons exit the building in case of an emergency.