Ed Driscoll

Safety First: A Good Idea In Home Theater

(The following is a true story, based on the real-life misadventures of your humble narrator in July of 2004.)

One issue we rarely think about with our media rooms and home theaters is safety. In a way, that’s understandable. Safety? Excuse me, we’re watching movies, not sky diving. Besides, safety’s for wimps. Real men don’t want to think about that stuff. We’d rather put “Full Metal Jacket” into the DVD player and kick back! Look–there’s Lee Ermey. “What is your major malfunction, numb-nuts??!!”

Well, yesterday, my major malfunction was to discover–the hard way–that two objects cannot occupy the same space simultaneously. Especially when they’re a glass coffee table and me. Which is why safety is on my mind today after taking a nasty spill in the living room: I took a wrong turn and slipped bass-ackwards onto our glass coffee table-and managed to put a pretty healthy slice into my left calf. One demolished table, two hours at the hospital and 11 stitches later, it’s certainly given me some food for thought.

First, all those medical shows I watched as a kid on TV showed their viewers nothing. “M*A*S*H”? If Hawkeye had two or three red droplets on his otherwise pristine surgical scrubs, it was a sign the Red Chinese were clobbering our boys at the front. “Emergency” was even more sanitized: Randy Mantooth’s hair getting mussed was a sign that Los Angeles was experiencing armageddon.

But you know those Sunday shows that the Lifetime Channel used to show that showed real surgery? I always tried to click past them as fast as possible to get to the football game, but they’re certainly true to life, as I discovered yesterday. When you can see all seven layers of skin and fat, and a little muscle as well, you know you’re not in Mantooth land anymore, Toto.

Making a Home Theater Safer

If you have a family and the biggest, best, most enjoyable home theater on the block, odds are you also have all of the neighborhood kids in there every so often. This is a good thing, because at least you know where your kids are. But it also makes you a little bit of an informal block parent.

So what can be done to improve safety in the home theater? Here are some suggestions-take them for what they’re worth. I’m not saying it’s necessary to incorporate all of them into a media room, but an ounce of prevention is worth ten or 11 stitches-or something like that. Having a smoke detector and nearby A-B-C fire extinguisher aren’t bad ideas. When one considers how much electronic equipment is typically in a media room wiring it to its own circuit, apart from the main breaker, is essential.

There are all sorts of methods to reduce the clutter of speaker wire in the room, from running wires in walls to building a platform and having the wires run underneath. But at a minimum, keep them coiled up and out of the way of running feet.

Many X10 controllers have an all-on function to activate all of the lights in the house, which can save vital seconds in an emergency. Speaking of lights, most commercial movie theaters have exit lighting always on, even when the main light dim. Incorporating a similar design into a home theater would both add to its theater-like atmosphere and increase its safety.

Keeping a first-aid kit in the house-and knowing where it’s located-is always good planning as well.

Finally, if you end up ever hosting movie nights for local clubs or groups, make sure you check out your homeowners’ insurance policy to make sure you’re covered; or see if the group has insurance in case someone gets hurt while in your home.

Remember kids, it’s all fun and games until somebody takes a coffee table out.

Resource Links

  • CableOrganizer.com: Cable management tips for home theater systems.
  • Crutchfield: Good article from the online retailers, about hiding the wires in a home theater. (Adobe Acrobat required to read.)
  • SmartHome.com
    The popular online home automation retailer’s page on home theater drape and lighting control products.
  • R. Lee Ermey: The star of “Full Metal Jacket” and former Marine DI’s home page.