Preventing Nightclub Fires and Protecting Fire Victims
A short article recently prepared by WJHG raises a very important subject matter: nightclub fire safety. Our Panama City fire injury law firm appreciates the work of the local fire inspector, who visits businesses throughout the year to make sure they follow the fire code. Club-goers should also be prepared, especially in the busy Spring Break season, and be aware of fire safety. The National Fire Protection Agency ("NFPA") and Captain Coco of the PCB Fire Department both recommend that visitors have a game plan, share it with their companions, and identify the location of all exits upon arrival at a club. Still, it is the clubs themselves bear the bulk of fire safety responsibility, and we are prepared to hold them accountable if their failures lead to tragedy.
The Station Nightclub Fire and NFPA's Revised Fire Safety Rules
It has been over a decade since a fire ripped through The Station nightclub in West Warwick, Rhode Island on February 20, 2003, claiming 100 lives and calling attention to the dangers of fires and overcrowding in nightclubs and other assembly occupancies (a term for places of mass assembly that includes everything from houses of worship to dance clubs).
A dedicated NFPA webpage discusses the fire, the 4th-deadliest nightclub fire in the U.S. and the 10th-deadliest worldwide, and the Association's response. Within hours of the fire, the NFPA had made a wide range of safety materials available to the public. In the following weeks, the Association began the process of creating new rules that led to sweeping changes to guidance for assembly occupancies.
Among the rules developed by the NFPA in the wake of the Station Nightclub Fire are the following requirements (detailed in a 2003 proposal):
- Sprinkler systems must be installed in new assembly occupancies, including nightclubs, and in already-existing locations that accommodate 100 or more
- Building inspectors must ensure exits are unobstructed and maintain records of these inspections
- There must be at least one trained crowd manager present at all gatherings at assembly occupancies, other than religious services, and there must be one such crowd manager for every 250 people at larger gatherings
- Festival seating (where the only seating for the audience to a performance is the floor/ground) is prohibited for crowds in excess of 250 people unless prior approval is granted following a life-safety evaluation
The Role of NFPA Standards
It is important to note that NFPA standards and codes are guidance, not law. However, they are widely adopted and made part of fire codes nationwide, including Florida's Fire Prevention Code (see discussion of NFPA and Florida law on Fire Department of Miami's webpage). They are also the type of material commonly cited by expert witnesses in premises liability, product liability, and other personal injury cases to show the defendant's conduct did not meet acceptable levels of care.
Northwest Florida Nightclub Fire Injury Lawyer
If a fire in a nightclub, bar, concert venue, or other place of assembly left you injured or led to the death of a family member, you may be entitled to monetary damages. Potential claims following assembly occupancy fires include premises liability claims against the property owner/operator, and product liability claims against the manufacturer of an item that sparked/exacerbated the blaze. Call our Panama City club fire lawyer to discuss your case and begin the process of recovering the money you are owed.