City Council adopts new Mardi Gras regulations intended to improve safety

In a continuing effort to make Mardi Gras parades safer, the City Council has adopted new regulations that focus on electrical equipment, permitting, safety harnesses and other requirements that Carnival krewes must meet.

The latest amendments follow about a half-dozen rules changes that took effect with the 2014 Carnival celebration and another set approved in May that will go into place next year.

This latest round establishes rules for the type of electrical wiring and equipment that can be used on floats. It also sets guidelines for the use of flambeaux, or lighted torches, during parades and sets a minimum age for truck float riders.

The first set of amendments mostly impacted spectators. It included provisions banning spectators from roping off any portion of a neutral ground, street or sidewalk along a parade route; placing ladders, tents or grills within 6 feet of a curb during a parade; and positioning a portable toilet on public property along a parade route without written permission from the city.

The second set of changes capped the number of parade permits the city can issue each Carnival season at 30; ordered that no more than two permits be issued for evening parades on the same date, with some exceptions; and reduced the number of trucks in the two parades that follow Rex on Fat Tuesday.

The rules changes approved Thursday, like those passed in May, focus on parading organizations.

They make several changes related to electrical equipment on floats, including banning generators on truck floats beginning in 2016. The trucks will be required to use power inverters provided by the cab pulling the float.

The new rules also eliminate an exemption in the current ordinance that said floats that use extension cords instead of fixed electrical wiring did not have to register annually with the Department of Safety and Permits and get an official electrical inspection sticker.

The revised ordinance also adds the requirement that any float or “minifloat” that uses electrical equipment for anything other than lighting, such as animation or musical equipment, must have at least one 20-amp circuit for the front of the float and one for the back of the float.

A spokeswoman for Councilwoman LaToya Cantrell, who introduced all the rules changes, said at least one more ordinance may be introduced eventually to address the weight of beads tossed from floats, particularly those tossed while still bundled and bagged.

The rules changes were presented by the Mayor’s Mardi Gras Advisory Committee, made up of representatives from each parading Carnival organization. The committee reports directly to the mayor and, among other things, considers applications from prospective Carnival krewes and makes recommendations about whether a permit should be granted.

The revised ordinance also raises the annual registration fee paid by parade krewes from $30 to $40; requires that floats have two methods for riders to enter and exit, including ladders, ropes, stairs or any combination of those; and requires that the safety harnesses worn by all float riders, as well as truck float riders between the ages of 6 and 12, be approved by the Fire Department.

The ordinance also sets the minimum age for a person participating in a truck parade at 3 years old. Truck riders between 3 and 5 will have to be placed in special wooden safety seats that are bolted into the floor of the truck and outfitted with a seat belt that attaches across the child’s waist and through his or her legs.

Under the new rules, the minimum age for people employed to carry flambeaux will be 18 instead of 21. The rules place restrictions on the type of fuel that may be used and says flambeaux must be kept at least 15 feet away from floats and parade participants.