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Use of Portable Fire Extinguishers in Nightclubs.

pdf icon Use of Portable Fire Extinguishers in Nightclubs. (119 K)
Grosshandler, W. L.

NISTIR 7419; April 2007.

Use of Portable Fire Extinguishers in Nightclubs: Workshop Summary. Proceedings. January 17, 2007, Gaithersburg, MD, Grosshandler, W. L., Editor(s), 1-8 pp, 2007.


fire extinguishers; fire investigations; building fires; NFPA 10; building codes; fire codes; standards; training; fire protection; effectiveness; fire spread; technology utilization; maintenance; fire departments; NFPA 13; egress; evacuation; nightclubs; nightclubs


A fire occurred on the night of Feb. 20, 2003, in The Station nightclub in West Warwick, Rhode Island, when the band, during its performance, used pyrotechnics that ignited polyurethane foam insulation lining a portion of the walls and ceiling. The fire spread quickly over the dance floor and smoke was visible in the exit doorways in a little more than one minute. Egress from the nightclub, which was not equipped with sprinklers, was hampered by crowding at the main entrance to the building. One hundred people lost their lives in the fire. The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) conducted an investigation to determine the likely technical causes of the building failure that led to the high number of casualties. The investigation concluded that strict adherence to 2003 model codes available at the time of the fire would go a long way to preventing similar tragedies in the future. Ten recommendations to improve model building and fire codes, standards and practices (as they existed in February 2003) resulted from the investigation: (1) urging state and local jurisdictions to (a) adopt and update building and fire codes covering nightclubs based on one of the model codes and (b) enforce those codes aggressively; (2) strengthening the requirements for the installation of NFPA 132 compliant automatic fire sprinklers; (3) increasing the factor of safety on the time for occupants to evacuate; (4) tightening the restriction on the use of materials that ignite as easily and propagate flames as rapidly as non-fire retarded foam as an interior finish product; (5) further limiting the use of pyrotechnics; (6) urging state and local authorities to adopt and adhere to existing model standards on communications, mutual aid, command structure and staffing; (7) conducting research to understand better human behavior in emergency situations; (8) conducting research to understand fire spread and suppression better; (9) conducting research to refine computer-aided decision tools for resource allocation, and (10) performing a study to determine the minimum number and appropriate placement (based upon the time required for access and application in a fully occupied building) of portable fire extinguishers for use in new and existing nightclubs, and the level of staff training required to ensure their proper use.