A while back, I shared the trailer for a documentary that was in production, called Six Locked Doors.  It documents the 1942 fire at the Cocoanut Grove Nightclub in Boston, where 492 people were killed.  The video is now available for streaming on Vimeo, and it should be required viewing – not just for those of us who are involved in codes, but for anyone who enters buildings (that means everyone).

Barricaded door

Photo: Don Walford

Why?  Because it’s too easy for us to forget the potential for tragedy and focus on other threats that seem more imminent.  We MUST remain vigilant about life safety and fire protection.  Philosopher George Santayana said, “Those who cannot remember the past, are condemned to repeat it.”  He was right, and I see proof of our society repeating the mistakes of the past every day.

For example, last month, just a few weeks before the 77th anniversary of the Cocoanut Grove fire, there was a fire in an apartment building in Las Vegas.  Six people were killed.  Two months before the fire, a group of concerned downtown residents noted a barricaded door at the rear of the apartment building and submitted a photo to a city employee.  The barricade was removed, but the door allegedly remained locked from the inside, reportedly hindering egress during the fire.

Although the apartment fire and the nightclub fire are different in occupancy type, scale, cause, etc., they do share one thing.  In both cases, security was prioritized over life safety and egress.  As I’ve said many times before, there are ways to accomplish both, and we must continue to look for and report code violations and suggest code-compliant security improvements.

When I started working in the door and hardware industry, NFPA 80, NFPA 101, and the other codes and standards were just books.  I didn’t “get it” until years later, and that’s when it really hit me that a blocked exit or propped fire door could be fatal.

Please, watch the documentary about the Cocoanut Grove fire. 

The film costs $9.99 to rent, or $19.99 to purchase.*  It’s 1 hour and 9 minutes long, and I guarantee that it will make you really think about what we do every day and why.  Make the time, and share your feedback in the reply box below.  If you’re interested in hosting a screening of the film for your company or organization, I can put you in touch with the producers.


*Note that I am not involved with this movie or the funds collected.


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