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sound attenuation. The crowd all at once
made a mad dash for the only exit they
knew of—the front main entrance door.
Dozens became trapped in the doorway;
many were trampled to death, and others
perished from smoke inhalation.
By the time the first-arriving fire
crew arrived on scene, the building was
heavily involved. This incident prompted
a multitude of changes in NFPA standards and codes in occupancies of public
Studying this incident early on in
my career reinforced the importance of
situational awareness. Any time I go out
anywhere, whether out to dinner with my
family or to a show at a local concert hall,
I immediately identify two or three additional exits in the event of an emergency.
The National Institute of Standards and
Technology (NIST) investigated the fire
and issued many recommendations. ( 11)
They included changes in standards for
fire sprinklers in assembly occupancies,
flammable materials use in assembly halls, and the implementation of
inspections and strict code enforcement
programs for nightclub occupancies. The
report also called for changes in pyrotechnics use codes; occupancy limitations; and a focus on fire extinguishers—
their availability, the travel distance to
find one, placement, and training for staff
members on their usage. ( 11) NIST’s report included a reconstruction of the fire
to show conditions inside the structure,
determine the area of origin, predict the
survivability with the use of sprinklers,
and analyze the egresses.
Another prominent fire occurred in
a Thai nightclub on New Year’s Eve in
2009. Pyrotechnics ignited a blaze, leaving 66 dead and nearly 200 injured. 12 The
club owner blocked exits to prevent customers from leaving without paying their
tabs. There were no emergency lights
or exit signs or directional maps for the
exits, although the local building code
required them. The club was operated in
a section of Bangkok where clubs were
banned, and approving signatures for
inspections and reports had been forged.
( 12) The occupancy wasn’t officially
registered as any type of business but as
a privately owned home. Because of this,
Bangkok fire officials hadn’t performed
any fire inspections.