^Station Nightclub fire footage in Rhode Island (fire begins 6:40). Warning: Very disturbing
The Kiss nightclub fire in Santa Maria, Brazil that killed 233 people is not an isolated event. The United States has one of the highest mortality rates from fire and some experience with nightclub fires. The 2003 Station fire in Rhode Island that killed 100 people bears many similarities to the tragedy in Brazil.
- Too few exits
The Brazil nightclub had only one entrance and exit. Despite being five door-spaces wide, it is just insane to think that one exit could handle thousands of people. The place is engulfed with smoke and fire in a matter of seconds. There were few windows. Rescuers had to literally chop holes into concrete walls to get in the Brazil nightclub.
The Rhode Island nightclub likewise had too few exits and windows. Choking smoke consumed the room in as little as twenty seconds. Choke-points caused by too few exits led to trampling at both nightclubs. The entire five-door exit was blocked with bodies because of trampling at the choke point. People couldn't get out and rescuers couldn't get in.
- Exits blocked Both the Brazil and the Rhode Island fires had people blocking fleeing patrons from exiting the building. Security guards in the Brazil nightclub apparently thought they were trying to skip paying their tab. In Rhode Island nightclub had a table in the way of the exit. In both cases, the sole choke-point became blocked by lifeless bodies.
- Exits hard to find
People in the Brazil nightclub scrambled desperately for the exit and ended up in restrooms. It was dark and people were drunk. In the panic of a smoke-filled space people have a difficultly finding their way out, and exits must be clearly marked with exit signs. The Rhode Island's exits were oddly placed, difficult to find. I didn't see any signage in the video; maybe it was there but people probably didn't see it. Innovative signage places strings of lights on the ceiling that gesture to exits and that would have helped enormously in this situation. Flashing lights help people see in the smoke.
- Occupancy limit exceeded
The Brazil nightclub had a limit of 1,000 people. There were 2,000 people there that night, double the limit. And you are going to get all those people out of one exit???
The Rhode Island nightclub was also over the occupancy limit, with 440-458 people in a 420 limit space.
- No fire sprinklers and smoke alarms
Where were the smoke alarms in the video? The alarm went off forty seconds after the fire began, which was much too late. People stood around watching the pretty fire during those few precious seconds they had to get out, simply because there was no loud siren. People don't act until they hear sirens.
There were no fire sprinklers. Modern building codes place much more emphasis on fire sprinklers because of their value in suppressing fires and concurrently letting people know without a doubt that there is a fire... assuming they are turned on. Also, there were no flashing lights to illuminate the dark and smoky space.
Rather than alert the crowd of danger, you see the singer with the microphone in the video cowardly run for the exit. Reports from the Brazil fire likewise indicate the the performers were among the first to get out. One perished in the fire after going back for his accordion, according to AP, rather than helping others to get out. The camera man in the video was more concerned with filming people running around on fire than doing much to help (CBS-affiliated WPRI-TV).
- Fireworks indoors
Both fires started the same. Like the Brazil blaze, the Rhode Island nightclub fire began from pyrotechnics indoors. And like the Brazil blaze, the pyrotechnics lit acoustic foam on fire. The fire spreads quickly along the ceiling and easily reaches the building's structure. After just 20 seconds a person can't breathe and collapses, maybe before they even notice the ceiling on fire.
Unfortunately many big corporations get away with selling unsafe building material because of corruption in the government. Furniture and interior architecture frequently is highly flammable and uses toxic glues. People at nightclubs apparently don't realize that large spinning wheels of fire are extremely unsafe and illegal. While most fires begin in the kitchens of houses, 24% of structure fires result from heating systems or other flame producing mechanisms catching fire on nearby material.
- Smoke filling a confined space
A warm nightclub full of bodies and devoid of windows is the perfect place for a fire to quickly kill. A little ventilation would prevent the room from getting filled up with smoke so quickly.