Nightclub Fires on the Fire essay

Download this essay in word format (.doc)

Note: Sample below may appear distorted but all corresponding word document files contain proper formatting

Excerpt from essay:

Because the busboy in the Cocoanut Grove fire lit a match in the basement area of the nightclub, the code changes also called for the prohibition on using basement areas for assembly.

When firemen did get into the building, they were impeded again by overturned tables. The new code addressed that by ordering that tables be secured to the floor.

Limitations were placed on materials that could be used in furnishings to ensure they were as fire-resistant as possible.

This also included the finishes on tables, chairs and other furnishings. The rapid spread of these fires and the thick smoke that blinded patrons, were due to the finishes used on the furniture and decorations. The fire codes were changed, however, the enforcement of that code is particularly hard to enforce. The Station fire many years later was caused by the pyrotechnics igniting foam insulation that was being used as a sound absorption material on the walls. This foam was not meant for that purpose; it is a packing material. The code change addressed this issue, but it is difficult to control the application of materials and decorations on walls after construction. Even periodic fire inspections may not catch everything (Geren 1).

Subsequent to the two fires in the early 1940s, the new codes also designated both restaurants and nightclubs as public assembly areas. This led, eventually, to the requirement for sprinkler systems, and exits lit by emergency lighting.

In 2003 the International Building Code set requirements for trim and decorations to include curtains, draperies and other items that might be hanging from walls and ceilings. Codes also set requirements for materials applied to floors. The codes became so specific that they set thickness requirements for finishes and exempted those that were less than .036 thick (Geren 1).

Fire Tragedies Propagated by Finishes (Geren 3)

Location Date Deaths Contributing Finish

Cocoanut Grove Nightclub, Boston, Massachusetts,

Nov. 28, 1942.

492 Paper decorations

Beverly Hills Supper Club, Southgate, Kentucky,

May 28, 1977

164 Concealed, combustible ceiling tile

DuPont Hotel and Casino, San Juan, Puerto Rico,

Dec. 31, 1986

96 Wall finishes

Happy Land Social Club, New York City, New York, Mar. 25, 1990

87 Wood paneling on wood studs

The Station, West Warwick, Rhode Island,

Feb. 20, 2003

100 Foam insulation for sound absorption

One of the most fundamental findings of President Truman's Conference, as stated by the chairman of that committee, in referring to the Cocoanut Grove and Rhythm fires, was the following:

"It has been brought to the attention of this Committee that some of the recent fires resulting in a large loss of life were caused by a lack of proper inspection, rather than a lack of adequate statutes or ordinances. In too many instances, insurance companies, rather than public officials, have, as a matter of political necessity, taken the lead in inspection work. Perhaps one cause of inadequate enforcement of fire prevention regulations has been lack of a properly controlled discretion in local building officials to pass upon questions of compliance with building codes" (Committee on Laws and Law Enforcement 10).

They recommended as "essential" the formulation of ordinances to give authority to appropriate building and inspection officers to enforce appropriate building and fire standards and to be able to pass or fail buildings based on their meeting those standards. Until this standard was met, believe it or not, no such authority existed.

Codes and Laws After The Station Fire

Since all the codes we have described above were adopted prior to The Station Fire, a major investigation was launched within one week of this fire by the National Institute of Safety and Technology (NIST). The bottom line is that the investigation concluded that the adherence to the 2003 codes may not have prevented the fire but would have gone a long way towards saving lives.

NIST developed ten recommendations that would make nightclubs safer for occupants and would enhance the codes passed in 2003. It must be remembered that the state and local jurisdictions must adopt ordinances and pass laws to enforce any fire safety recommendations. NIST has no regulatory authority. Some states and municipalities have passed these recommendations into law -- others have not.

Some of the more significant NIST recommendations to states and municipalities follow (Newman 1):

Adopt comprehensive building and fire codes which include coverage of nightclubs and public assembly areas.

Implement aggressive fire inspection and enforcement programs

Ensure enough well-qualified fire and building inspectors are available

"Recommendations 2 and 3 address the use of automatic fire sprinkler systems for extinguishing fires in nightclubs and limiting the flammability of materials used as finish products to prevent such fires in the first place (Newman 1).

"Recommendation 6 addresses portable fire extinguishers, calling for a better understanding of the numbers, placement locations, and staff training required to ensure their effective use.

"Recommendation 7 calls for developing and implementing effective and interoperable communications for mass casualty events within and between first responder organizations. Again, NIST recommends that state and local jurisdictions adopt existing model standards on communications, mutual aid, command structure and staffing.

"Finally, recommendations 8 through 10 address critically needed research to serve as the basis for further improvements in codes, standards and practices" (Newman 1).

New indoor fireworks legislation is being offered and passed in a number of states as a result of The Station fire, as well as the Chicago nightclub fire in 2003 that killed 21 people. Nightclub fires in Buenos Aires (2004, 192 dead), and Luoyang, China (2000, 309 dead) and Bangkok, Thailand (2008, 61 dead) also had an impact on passing legislation. Many people are being killed, not by the smoke and fire, but by the stampede of people trying to escape through inadequate exits.

It is ironic that Rhode Island had an indoor fireworks ordinance in place before their tragic nightclub fire. It required a permit from local fire authorities. Because it was bypassed by the participants, tragedy resulted. Now Rhode Island legislators are looking into other aspects of fire safety, such as requiring sprinklers in any public assembly building. Many of the laws being passed, however, have "grandfather" clauses that allow buildings and businesses to operate under the laws that were in effect when the building was built. That was the reason The Station nightclub had no sprinklers when 100 people were killed and many more were injured.

There are at least five other states that have laws requiring permits before indoor fireworks are allowed -- South Carolina, Minnesota, Indiana, Connecticut and Texas. It is almost impossible to track this figure because of the local nature of such ordinances -- by town, city, county, or state. But in most cases, rather than ban indoor fireworks, permits must be obtained -- the same kind of permit that was necessary before the Rhode Island fire!

In general, though, state legislatures are passing packages of laws as a result of The Station fire. There usually include provisions for:

Mandating sprinkler systems

Creating stiffer penalties for nightclubs going over capacity limits including mandating sprinkler systems or shutting down on the second offense.

Increasing financial incentives for businesses, clubs and buildings that comply by accelerating their tax burden depreciation significantly.

Establishing must stiffer penalties for dangerous infractions of fire codes which can include very large fines and/or time in prison.

Increasing state funding for fire awareness programs for students


Though the nightclub fires have struck a chord with legislators, it is easy to see that there is no reason another disaster could not occur. It is the enforcement of all of these recommendations, ordinances, laws, regulations, etc. that matters. Thorough inspections, heavy penalties, and frequent and comprehensive review of requirements with inspectors having appropriate enforcement authority are the answers. No amount of legislation will be effective without enforcement. That is the sad tale of most nightclub fires around the globe.


Beitler, S. "Natchez, MS Rhythm Nightclub Fire, April 1940." 9 November 2007. (from The Delta Democrat-Times Greenville Mississippi 1940-04-24). 12 July 2009 . "Cocoanut Grove Fire." 2009. 12 July 2009 .

CNN. "At least 996 killed in nightclub inferno." 21 February 2003. 12 July 2009 .

Committee on Laws and Law Enforcement. "The President's Conference on Fire Prevention." 6 May 1947. Department of Homeland Security. 18 July 2009 .

Geren, G.L. "The Code Corner." November 2004. 18 July 2009 .

Grosshandler, W., et al. "Report of the Technical Investigation of The Station Nightclub Fire." June 2005. National Institute of Safety and Technology. 18 July 2009 .

Madigan, E. "Nightclub Fire Prompts New Fireworks Laws." July 2003. 18 July 2009 .

Newman, M.E. "Final NIST Rhode Island Nightclub Fire Report..." 25 June 2005. National Institute…[continue]

Cite This Essay:

"Nightclub Fires On The Fire" (2009, July 18) Retrieved October 21, 2016, from

"Nightclub Fires On The Fire" 18 July 2009. Web.21 October. 2016. <>

"Nightclub Fires On The Fire", 18 July 2009, Accessed.21 October. 2016,

Other Documents Pertaining To This Topic

  • Fire Safety Management

    Fire Safety Management The purpose of this paper is to explore several key concepts related to Fire Safety Management. Specifically this paper aims to explore the following concepts in greater detail: Fire protection/suppression systems, Building Construction and Exit Drill in the Home (EDITH) and other Home Safety Programs. Fire technology has expanded in recent years, providing for important fire safety management components. This includes construction of more fire retardant buildings and implementation

  • Station Club Fire That Occurred in Rhode

    Station club fire that occurred in Rhode Island in February 2003 stands through today as the fourth-deadliest nightclub fire in the history of the United States. In total, a hundred people were killed, roughly 230 were injured and another 132 people were able to escape unharmed. The fire and its aftermath was the result of a perfect storm of the irresponsible use of pyrotechnics, very flammable acoustic foam and the

  • Fire Disaster One of the Worst Nightclub

    Fire Disaster One of the worst nightclub fires in recent U.S. history killed one hundred people and injured 230 people in West Warwick, Rhode Island on February 20, 2003. It was the fourth deadliest nightclub fire disaster in American history. This paper reviews the reason for the fire, what the injuries were for the concert-goers, and adds what could have been done to prevent the fire. The Tragic Station Fire The rock

  • History of Building Construction and Changes Related to Fire Safety...

    History of Building Construction and Changes Related to Fire Safety & Prevention History of Building Construction and Changes Related to Fire Safety and Prevention Major Cases in the United States That Have Led to Changes in Fire Safety and Prevention in Building Construction Though numerous tragic fires have contributed to our current Fire Safety and Prevention measures, a few cases dominate our country's collective memory in the establishment and refinement of the "Life

  • Station Night Club Fire What

    Rodgers, Jr. (Rodgers, 2006). The "no contest" plea, said Rodgers, will "…alleviate the victims' families and broader community from being subjected to an emotional reliving of the tragedy at trial." Moreover, the judge said the "no contest" plea actually means that the defendants (Jeffrey Derderian and Michael Derderian) accept responsibility for installing foam in the club that was not fireproof. The Rhode Island Fire Code requires fireproof insulation and foam

  • Building Codes in Modern Building Construction There

    Building Codes In modern building construction, there are numerous codes and regulations that contractors and builders are compelled by law to follow. Though different states and municipalities have variation in their particular regulatory regimes, there are some standard guidelines that all state and local governments must abide. First, regulations require buildings to be structurally sound; that is, in the case of fire or disaster, buildings and homes must be able to

  • Public and Private Policing Functions

    The private security field also underwent significant reforms in connection with the qualifications, training, and (especially) vetting of employment candidates as well Ortmeier, 2009). Ironically, instead of recognizing the comprehensive improvement throughout the private security industry after 2001, many police personnel intensified their pre-existing disdain for all non-sworn security professionals instead (Dalton, 2003). The Conceptual Significance of Public and Private Spaces One of the worst consequences of the antagonism on the part

Read Full Essay
Copyright 2016 . All Rights Reserved