BOSTON -- A man whose son was killed in the West Warwick nightclub fire told a national association of fire safety code writers that sprinkler systems should be installed in all buildings, regardless of whether they're exempt from the requirement.
Al Gray, a fire safety official with the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority and father of 22-year-old fire victim Derek Gray of Dracut, Mass., addressed a special meeting of the National Fire Protection Association on Thursday. The group met to review safety issues after the Feb. 20 disaster and the trampling deaths of patrons at a Chicago nightclub three days earlier.
"Ninety-nine people died because there wasn't sprinklers in that building," Gray said, referring to The Station nightclub. Investigators say the fire was sparked by pyrotechnics used by the band Great White.
"If there were sprinklers in that building, those kids would have got out. That's it in a nutshell," Gray said.
Gray said officials should target grandfather clauses, which exempt buildings from sprinkler requirements if they were built before the regulation was passed. The Station nightclub didn't have to install sprinklers because of a grandfather clause.
"If I knew what I know now, I would have paid to have them put in," he said. "For 30 or 40 grand they could have retrofitted the building."
"If anything comes out of this, we've got to get sprinklers in these places," he said.
The nonprofit NFPA, which has no enforcement power, is reviewing codes affecting minimum thresholds for requiring automatic fire sprinkler protection, allowable interior finish and decorations, adequate egress, exiting arrangements, retroactive application of code requirements, inspection and permitting.
News Channel 10's Audrey Laganas reported the NFPA will consider dropping the so-called 300 threshold, which is the organization's national standard calling for sprinklers in existing facilities with capacity of 300 people or more.
"We'll look at the sprinkler threshold for sure," NFPA President James Shannon said. "But we'll also look at the exit capacity questions, the questions of the ignition sources, the use of the pyrotechnics."
Rhode Island's state fire marshal, Irving Owens, supports abolishing the sprinkler threshold.
"Certain buildings that don't require sprinklers now should require them," he said.
Owens on Tuesday said officials were working to determine how many patrons were allowed in the club by measuring its square footage, the width of the doors and through other calculations. They also were reviewing ways club owners Jeffrey and Michael Derderian may have increased the allowable count by removing pool tables.
The Quincy-based group's model codes and standards have incorporated the lessons learned following significant fire losses. The NFPA's recommendations have stimulated reforms nationwide, the group says.
NFPA Vice President Arthur E. Cote said in a statement that even though all the facts aren't in "we know enough right now to warrant a serious review and scrutiny of the future direction of codes and standards, and their enforcement locally."
The Massachusetts Legislature's Public Safety Committee on Thursday approved a statewide ban on indoor pyrotechnics in nightclubs and dance halls. The panel is also asking the state fire marshal to investigate and develop regulations for automatic sprinklers in all buildings designed for occupancy as dance halls and nightclubs. Both measures now go to the full House.
Authorities in Chicago and Rhode Island are investigating their respective cases, but no charges have been filed. Lawsuits have been filed in both states.
The Feb. 17 stampede at the E2 nightclub in Chicago began when an irritant was used to break up a dance-floor fight and patrons fled for the doors, crushing each other in their attempts to leave. Twenty-one people died. Club owners have disputed the claim that some of the doors were locked.
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03-13-2003, 07:30 PM #1
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NFPA Holds Emergency Summit to Re-Consider Codes, Enforcement
03-13-2003, 09:06 PM #2
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- Glenn Dale Md, Heart of the P.G. County Fire Belt....
Thank You for posting that item, stories like that end up buried somewhere in section 99 of our papers down here. This close to DC, it's always the politicians on page 1, never anything of importance. Although I hope a great deal of good comes from this terrible loss of life, I can't help but be somewhat cynical due to the long, long, list of missed opportunities. There have been higher death tolls in similar incidents in the past, but here we are today, mourning a hundred more lives lost because we didn't learn from the past. When I say "we" I exclude the Fire Service, but the rest of America can share the blame. There are lots of existing measures that would have prevented the loss of life at The Station, but society felt that the rights of business to avoid expenses takes precedence over the lives of others, including Firefighters. On a slightly different direction, does anyone know how the Brothers and Sisters who responded are doing? We pay a lot of attention to the incident itself, but sometimes the responders slip thru the cracks. I know what it's like to sit on the back step of the wagon a few shifts later and worry about whether I did all I could have done. I have no question whatsoever that those who handled the Station incident could have done more. The outcome was set in stone before the first units arrived. I don't think "Hero" is too stong a discription of anyone responding that night. Stay Safe....Never use Force! Get a Bigger Hammer.
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