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Welcome!. A trade association wholly supported by members. www.nfsa.org. National Fire Sprinkler Assn. Rhode Island Nightclub Tragedy “Lessons Learned” Presented by: Dominick G. Kass CFPS Northeast Regional Manager. © Copyright NFSA 2003. National Fire Sprinkler Association (The “ NFSA” )

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Welcome l.jpg

A trade association wholly supported by members.


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National Fire Sprinkler Assn

Rhode Island Nightclub Tragedy “Lessons Learned”

Presented by: Dominick G. Kass CFPS

Northeast Regional Manager

© Copyright NFSA 2003

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  • National Fire Sprinkler Association (The “NFSA”)

  • Construction Trade Association

    • Engineering Services

    • Training and Education

    • Labor Relations

    • Promoting the concept of sprinkler system installation

  • Manufacturers

  • Suppliers

  • Contractors

  • Professional (Architects, Engineers)

  • Subscribers (Code Officials, Insurance)

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What We’ll Look At

  • What doesn’t (or didn’t) work

  • Aspects of the “Station Fire”

  • What does work

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What Didn’t Work

The Tragedy

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RI Nightclub Fire “The Station” 20 Feb 03

  • To date, 100 people have perished

  • Pyrotechnics display at a rock concert

    • Code changes

  • Deadliest fire in Rhode Island's history

  • Nation's worst nightclub fire in 25 yrs.

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The Station Nightclub

  • Constructed in 1950.

  • An addition was built in 1975.

  • Town records indicate 4,484 ft2 of rentable space

  • Total of 6,278 ft2

  • Value was assessed at $268,400.

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The Station Nightclub

Total of four exits;

  • Main entrance facing North to the street

  • 1 Northwest portion by the bar

  • 1 located exiting the kitchen

  • 1 located Northeast by the Stage.

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The Station Nightclub

  • “Total of four exits”

  • Human nature:

    • Attempt egress at original entry point,

  • Main entrance facing North to the street:

    • handled 80% to 90% of occupants attempting to exit.

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Contributing Factors

  • Unfamiliar with other exits and paths

  • Darkness

  • No suppression, automatic or manual

  • Delayed alert to occupants

  • These are all typical and identifiable factors

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“The Station” Staff

  • Reported:

    • Stage exit was blocked by staff;

      “for band members only”.

    • Bar exit used by only a few.

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“Great White” Performing at the Station Nightclub

Pyrotechnics were running at the upper left

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Simulation and Test Conducted

  • NFSA member and N.E. R.M. conducted a simulation of the nightclub using similar foam to show the effectiveness of fire sprinklers in an A-2 Occupancy.

  • 3-inch thick uncovered polyether

  • (pure polypropylene oxidepolyol) foam cushions having a density of 1 to 1.25 pounds per cubic foot measuring 36 by 40 inches.

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NIST Report

Fire Model

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Without Sprinklers

Five Foot Level

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With Sprinklers

Five Foot Level

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Some of the deadliest U.S. fires in clubs and dance halls:

-491 dead, Cocoanut Grove club, Boston, Nov. 28, 1942. Cause unknown.

-198 dead, Rhythm Night Club dance hall in Natchez, Miss., April 23, 1940. Cause unknown.

Unfortunately, History Repeats Itself:

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Some of the deadliest U.S. fires in clubs and dance halls:

-164 dead, Beverly Hills Supper Club in Southgate, Ky., May 28, 1977. Defective wiring.

-87 dead, Happy Land Social Club in The Bronx, New York, March 25, 1990. Arson.

Unfortunately, History Repeats Itself:

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Unfortunately History repeats itself!!

-40 dead, dance hall in West Plains, Mo., April 13, 1928 (explosion). Cause unknown.

-32 dead, Upstairs Bar in New Orleans, June 24, 1973. Cause unknown.

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Unfortunately History repeats itself!!

-25 dead, an ethnic Social Club, Bronx, New York, Oct. 24, 1976. Arson.

-24 dead, Gulliver's Discotheque, Port Chester, N.Y., June 30, 1974. Arson fire in nearby bowling alley spread to disco.

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What lessens have we learned?

  • There would have been a major impact on the outcome had the building been fully protected by an automatic Fire Sprinkler system.

  • We must look at the current Fire and Building Codes being used in all states and determine if the occupancy load thresholds are too high.

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What lessens have we learned?

  • Overdue to examine the triggers in which an automatic fire sprinkler system would be installed such as the square footage, occupancy load, occupancy uses.

  • Education of architects, engineers, and designers in fire sprinkler “Trade-Ups” available in model building codes.

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The obvious…?

  • NIST- AllPlaces of Assembly should be protected by an automatic sprinkler system regardless of square footage or occupant load.

  • “Fire cannot read building codes!”

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Code Development

  • Consensus Code Process

  • Process is a form of negotiating. (Everyone comes out of process giving up something.)

  • AHJs should remember that codes are “minimal” codes. (But let’s not go nuts here.)

  • Min/Max state codes tie the hands of local control.

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  • A-2 Nightclub- 903.2.1.2- An automatic Sprinkler System shall be provided for group A-2 occupancies where (1) of the following conditions exist:

  • The fire area exceeds 5,000 Square Feet (464.5 M).

  • The fire area has an occupant load of 100 or more.

  • The fire area is located on a floor other than the level of exit discharge.

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Imagine…your day starts out as any typical work day…

  • “My name is Raymond Mattera. The last time I kissed and hugged my beautiful daughter Tammy, she was in a black body bag. Tammy was 29 years old…..”

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“Fine Line” Night club

  • 7 Fire Sprinklers activated,

  • 2 over fire, 5 “down wind” due to front door left open after egress,

  • Fire sprinklers were approx 18 inches below ceiling level, why?

  • Drop ceiling removed months before when new tenant moved in.

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“Fine Line” Night club results?

  • Minimal loss (considering)

  • No injuries


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“Fine Line” Staff

  • Trained in evacuation

  • Pointed patrons to exit

  • Trained in fire extinguishers

  • Checked to make sure everyone was out.

  • Occupancy has fire sprinklers throughout!

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  • If Codes and general fire safety procedures are unknown, misunderstood or not enforced? Potential…

    • Trauma (physical and mental)

    • Fatalities

    • High Dollar Losses

    • Vacant buildings

    • Degradation of neighborhoods

    • Crime rate increase

    • Law suits

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  • ROP Meetings for 2006 edition

    • Definition of “bars” modified to include “bars with live entertainment”.

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Fire Modeling

  • Study prepared for NFPA 101 meeting.

  • Modeling included many factors-

    • Fire growth, obstructions, speed of occupants, turning rate, smoke layer, 140º F.

  • Study done for 5,000 sq ft building

    • Before untenable at 6 ft. above floor

    • 150 people could escape with one 32” exit

    • 300 people- 2 exits

      • Under the modeled conditions.

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Code Updates

  • NFPA 101

    • Fire Sprinklers in Assembly Occupancies

      • New- 50 or more occupants

      • Existing- 100 or more

    • Egress issues and egress inspections

    • Crowd management

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NFPA 5000

  • New Assembly Occupancies- Festival seating changes identical to NFPA 101.

  • Supervised Automatic Fire Sprinklers


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  • Fire Sprinklers

    • New Assembly Occupancies

    • Existing

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  • Group A-2 Fire Sprinkler requirements changed from 300 to 100 occupants.

  • Proposal to fire sprinkler all existing A-2 was denied.

  • Multiple proposals to fire sprinkler other occupancies denied, to include Educational.

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Changes to State Legislation

  • Rhode Island

    • Assy Occup- 100 or more: Sprinkler Retro

    • Eff. 01 Oct 2004- Employee Training

  • Massachusetts

    • Legislation signed 17 Aug 2004

    • Assy Occup, 100 or more: Sprinkler Retro

    • Employee Training to start in 2005

    • Change to Massachusetts Tax Code!!!

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Employee Training

  • Crowd count- prevent overcrowding

  • Exits marked and clear

  • Open flame use (permits, firewatch)

  • Fire extinguishers

  • Panic control/egress routes

  • Area assignments- evac restrooms, etc.

  • Decorations- only tested flame resistive materials

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Changes to State Legislation

  • New York State?

    • Was ahead of the game in 2003:

      • NYSBC Section 903.2.1.2 A-2 Occupancies

        • Must have fire sprinklers if:

          • 5,000 ft2

          • Load of 100 occupants or more (A-1,2,3,4)

      • NYSFC Section 404 Fire Safety & Evac Plans

      • NYSFC Section 406 Employee Training & Response Procedures

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The “3 E”s

  • Education

  • Engineering

  • Enforcement

  • Consider a 4th-

    • Evaluation

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What’s the answer?

  • Ya can’t fix “stupid”!

  • But we can address the results of “stupid”.

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Federal Legislation

  • HR 1131 / SB 512

    • Fire Sprinkler Incentive Act of 2005

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Contact Info

Thank you!

  • Office (518) 373-9392

  • Fax (518) 383-3950

  • Kass@NFSA.org

  • www.NFSA.org

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“60 Minutes II”investigates…