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#13112 - 02/21/03 09:20 PM Tragic Lessons Learned and Relearned
Doug_Ritter Offline


Registered: 01/28/01
Posts: 2049
Some thoughts...

Reporting on the Club fire in Rhode Island - Death toll 86 and counting

Associated Press and CNN Feb. 21, 2003:

Most of the bodies were found near The Station's front exit, some of them burned and others dead from smoke inhalation. Hall also said some appeared to have been trampled in the rush to escape.

"They tried to go out the same way they came in. That was the problem," Hall said. "They didn't use the other three fire exits."


Brian Butler, another patron, was at the Providence-area Station nightclub, which was hosting a concert by the band Great White. He said many fans watching flames creep down the wall behind the band during its pyrotechnic display thought the fire was part of the show and didn't immediately panic.
Rena Gorschalies was one of them. "Someone said, 'Is that part of the show?' and I said, 'I think it is.'"

John Schmidt said the decision to leave quickly saved his life because the flames sprinted through the building. " I was very close to the door," he said. " I'm telling you right now, we wouldn't be having this conversation if I was in there another 20 seconds."


This is unfortunately a not uncommon occurrence. There is a documented natural tendency in an emergency to respond by fleeing the way you arrived, even when that's not the sensible thing to do. Don't allow yourself to become an unnecessary victim. ALWAYS review your potential exit paths when entering a room or building. This may not just be doors, but may include windows that can be broken by throwing a chair through them.

There may not be a flight attendant to remind you where the exits are and to look behind you because your nearest exit may not be in front of you, but you should do it yourself anyway.

DO NOT GO WITH THE FLOW! At least not automatically. THINK first! Proceed to the nearest available exit that you have previously identified unless other circumstances interfere.

Finally, he who hesitates may be lost. Seconds can make a difference. If something strikes you as unusual or odd, don't automatically assume it's OK. Look closer and think critically. If there's something going on that's potentially dangerous, get the hell out of there. This isn't an invitation to panic, just to THINK critically about what goes on around you and act decisively.

Your most fundamental survival tool is your brain -- use it!
Doug Ritter
Equipped To SurviveŽ
Chairman & Executive Director
Equipped To Survive Foundation

#13113 - 02/22/03 12:20 AM Re: Tragic Lessons Learned and Relearned
Comanche7 Offline

Registered: 07/04/02
Posts: 436
Loc: Florida
The truly sad part is, that this is the 2nd. such event to occur in recent history. Both nightclubs & similar deaths.

Be safe.

#13114 - 02/22/03 01:39 AM Re: Tragic Lessons Learned and Relearned
Raptor68 Offline

Registered: 01/19/03
Posts: 8
Loc: KY/TN Borderlands
Tragic in that panic was a major factor in each: as Doug said in the R.I. fire, and the exact opposite in Chicago - people paniced and attempted to escape a completely non-lethal situation. Doug's point about THINK is so critical.
"Lost - nah, I aint never been lost. Been fearsome confused fer a month or two though..."

#13115 - 02/22/03 01:13 PM Re: Tragic Lessons Learned and Relearned

That is a excellent point Doug. I have been in a lesser fire before and I learned that it can trap you quick, the smoke and heat were the things I feared. I think covering your face and dowsing yourself with a much coke or water as you can, and for god sake be quicker than others on your way to the exit. Be quick to recognize the problem and have a preplanned escape route.


#13116 - 02/22/03 03:36 PM Re: Tragic Lessons Learned and Relearned

As of this morning, the toll is up to 96 dead.

I'm not sure about the West Warwick fire location but a lot of the nightclubs in this area (CT, RI, MA) are located in old mills or factories that were never intended to hold large amounts of people. This fact, and the fact that club managers tend to ignore capacity limits in order to make a buck, makes for real bad situtations if a mass egress is required. I can remember being in establishments like this in my younger days when you literally could not move through a crowd to get to the mens' room or even outside. Add panic and a fast moving fire to the mix and you have a disaster. Although Doug's advice is sound, I still have to think that some of those who perished in this fire never had a chance.


#13117 - 02/22/03 03:52 PM Re: Tragic Lessons Learned and Relearned

I think that this is certainly a tragedy and to simplify it as stupidity on the patrons part or negligence on the part of the establishment does no good! There is a decent share of both of these is contributing to the results. Certainly any nightclub owner who allows the crowd to become dangerously large or allows pyrotechnic displays in an area surrounded by flamables is negligent. Also individuals who voluntarily walk into such a crowd and blithly expect the establisments owner to "take care of the safety" without first analyzing the risks themselves and planning alternate escape routes is not fully utilizing his thinking capacities.

Whenever we find ourselves looking back on a tragedy it is natural to try to place blame - that is part of determining how we can reduce the risks in the future. To exclude examining the individuals role becaues it was the establisments part to secure the situation is the lambs way out to the slaughter-house. To require the establishment to secure the situation completely so that there is no risk is to risk living in a padded prison without access to knives or rope.

In the end, regardless of whatever is being done to protect us by others, we are individually responsible for our own butts. That is what being prepared is all about. Each and every one of the casualities (from fatalities to frightened excape's) had a chance to survive the night before they entered that building. Look at the crowd and ask yourself if you think that you will be safe there if something happens. Evaluate, evaluate, and then evaluate again. If you are unable to get to the bathroom it might be time to think about leaving even if there isn't a fire. Afterall, there could be a fire and if you can't get to the bathroom how will you be able to get to the door. At-least work your way towards the door so that you will be able to reach it easily.

<rant on loud> Or maybe the experience of seeing the band play from the edge of the stage is worth the risk of your life. If that is your devotion to the band and the party then stay but don't exclude yourself from the blame when you or your date becomes a crispy critter when things go bad.<rant off>

#13118 - 02/22/03 07:22 PM Re: Tragic Lessons Learned and Relearned

Sorry if I seemed one sided. I do agree that each person has the responsibility for themselves in regards to safety. That is one of the reasons I don't patronize those establishments any longer.

With that said, however, we need to remember that the majority of people are not in the survival mind set. Most people flock to a crowd by nature and then bend to peer pressure, and the crowd mentality to the point where their safety in peril. I am sure that the videographer (who happened to be focused on club safety) was viewed as an odd duck by the audience as he fled out the door at the early stage of the fire. It is for reasons like this that many fire safety codes (and other laws) are enacted; to protect people from themselves. You and I may not need them but a lot of people do.

Personally, I hope that this event will cause a closer scrutiny of the laws affecting fire protection devices such as sprinklers and automatic ventilation systems in older buildings. These regulations seem to keep this equipment out of the buildings that need them the most.


#13119 - 02/23/03 12:27 PM Re: Tragic Lessons Learned and Relearned

Also I heard that some exits were sparsly used. So you not only need to think, you need to think outta the box.

#13120 - 02/23/03 03:26 PM Re: Tragic Lessons Learned and Relearned

sometimes you just need to get outta the box


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