It’s hard to believe that 19 years have passed since the fire at the Station Nightclub in West Warwick, Rhode Island – the fire occurred on February 20, 2003. One hundred people died and more than 200 were injured, and non-code-compliant conditions played a role.
NIST – National Institute of Standards and Technology investigated the Station Nightclub Fire and published a list of 10 recommendations based on their findings. Recommendation 5 was related to egress:
Recommendation 5. Occupancy Limits and Emergency Egress: NIST recommends that the factor of safety for determining occupancy limits of all new and existing nightclubs be increased in the model codes in the following manner, and that state and local authorities adopt and aggressively enforce the following provisions:
a) Within the model codes, establish the threshold building area and occupant limits for egress provisions using best practices for estimating tenability and evacuation time; and, unless further studies indicate another value is more appropriate, use 1-1/2 minutes as the maximum permitted evacuation time for nightclubs similar to or smaller than The Station.
b) Compute the number of required exits and the permitted occupant loads assuming at least one exit (including the main entrance) will be inaccessible in an emergency evacuation.
c) For nightclubs with one clearly identifiable main entrance, increase the minimum capacity of the main entrance to accommodate two-thirds of the maximum permitted occupant level (based upon standing space or festival seating, if applicable) during an emergency.
d) Eliminate trade-offs between sprinkler installation and factors that impact the time to evacuate buildings.
e) Require staff training and evacuation plans for nightclubs that cannot be evacuated in less than 1-1/2 minutes.
f) Provide improved means for occupants to locate emergency routes—such as explicit evacuation directions prior to the start of any public event, exit signs near the floor, and floor lighting—for when standard exit signs become obscured by smoke.
A new documentary about the fire debuted yesterday, on the 19th anniversary of the fire, and it will be repeated on the REELZ network. I have not been able to watch it yet (I don’t have cable!), but I will report back on future opportunities for streaming the movie. You can watch the trailer below, or on YouTube.