The United States of America, Brazil and the Republic of Ireland share a common tragedy: each has suffered horrific nightclub fires that have claimed many lives. Although such events still do not exceed the most tragic nightclub fire in history, the Coconut Grove fire in 1942 where 492 deaths occurred, they do offer a stark reminder of the dangers and challenges we still face. The USA, Brazil and Ireland nightclub fires have spurred further reform in fire safety legislation spanning three different continents. NFPA continues to remain at the forefront of this battle, continuously developing and enacting stringent new code requirements to help prevent and respond to such horrific events.
The Station Nightclub Fire in West Warwick, RI on February 20, 2003 was the fourth deadliest nightclub fire in U.S. history. The tragedy claimed the lives of 100 people and resulted in the treatment of over 200 victims on scene in under two hours, prior to transportation to nearby hospitals/trauma centers. The West Warwick Fire Department declared a Multiple Casualty Incident (MCI) and the local MCI plan was put into effect. A study by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) recommended state and local authorities adopt and adhere to existing model standards on communications, mutual aid, command structure, and staffing, such as:
- NFPA 1221, Standard for the Installation, Maintenance, and Use of Emergency Service Communications Systems
- NFPA 1561, Standard on Emergency Services Incident Management System
- NFPA 1710, Standard for the Organization and Deployment of Fire Suppression Operations, Emergency Medical Operations, and Special Operations to the Public by Career Fire Departments
- NFPA 1720, Standard for the Organization and Deployment of Fire Suppression Operations, Emergency Medical Operations, and Special Operations to the Public by Volunteer Fire Departments
The Boate Kiss Nightclub Fire in Santa Maria, Brazil on January 27, 2013 marked the third-deadliest nightclub fire in world history. The blaze killed 241 people and it’s estimated that at least half of those were students at the local university. Both NFPA 1 and NFPA 101 have been translated into Portuguese to assist in code adoption and use efforts in Brazil. Also, NFPA has provided training for the Rio fire inspectors to assist them in their continuing efforts.
The Stardust Nightclub Fire in Artane in Dublin, Republic of Ireland on February 14, 1981 can only be described as the Valentine’s Day of death. A total of 48 people lost their lives and approximately 214 people were injured. The tragedy resulted in a Tribunal and substantial reform in fire safety legislation in Ireland. A review by the Dublin Fire Service, one year after the fire, noted several areas for potential improvement such as pre-fire planning, water supplies and dangerous chemicals. NFPA continues to develop codes and standards to assist emergency responders in these areas, for example NFPA 1620, Standard for Pre-Incident Planning provides criteria for developing pre-incident plans for use by personnel responding to emergencies.
It’s NFPA’s hope that through the development, use and adoption of standards, these great tragedies can be avoided. Where brave and courageous first responders risk their lives to save others, NFPA Standards will be there to help them do so.