Fed Institute Urges Safety Codes

After concluding a two-year investigation into The Station fire in West Warwick, R.I., the National Institute of Standards and Technology recently set forth 12 recommendations for fire safety codes in nightclubs, including requiring sprinklers in all clubs.

Suggestions to organizations that develop fire safety codes include tighter restrictions on the use of flammable materials, improving exits, increasing the number of fire extinguishers on site and eliminating a safety code exemption for older venues.

NIST – comprising federal safety experts – is also studying the 9/11 collapse of the World Trade Center towers. It has no regulatory authority and does not assign blame; none of its results can be used as evidence in a criminal case or lawsuit.

Rhode Island had already adopted many of the safety recommendations, but exempted smaller nightclubs.

The NIST report also recommends multiple passive and active fire protection systems be required at all venues. It recommends adequate staffing and equipment at fire departments.

Also, NIST recommended researching human behavior in emergencies and developing computer models to aid communities as they consider changes to safety codes.

The Station nightclub burned to the ground in 2003 after pyrotechnics were set off inside the small club, resulting in 100 killed and about 200 more injured.

NIST reconstructed the nightclub’s stage area and conducted fire tests. Its report said three factors directly contributed to the tragedy: the hazardous mix of building materials, the club’s lack of means to put out the fire and the inability of the exits to handle the fleeing people.