Park City wants best fire safety at its hot clubs

Code-related permits being considered
By Jody Genessy
Deseret Morning News

PARK CITY With memories in mind of last year's nightclub tragedies in Rhode Island and Chicago, Park City Fire Service District officials are taking steps to make their local hot spots safer.
As part of a proposed safety program, the department is considering requiring a fire-code-related permit for private clubs that have live bands and/or host more than 200 people.
"What we're trying to do is a partnering type of approach with nightclub owners," said Scott Adams, the district's assistant chief/fire marshal. "We want to be more proactive with club owners on steps they should take. We really need to be doing more so nothing like that could happen here."
By that, he's referring to the 85 deaths resulting from pyrotechnic effects gone awry inside a crowded bar at a Great White rock show in Rhode Island in February, and to the deaths of 21 people, many of whom were trampled, around the same time at a Chicago club after a pepper spray blast caused pandemonium.

To help avoid such horrors from happening here specifically regarding the evacuation process, considered to have been a reason so many died in the two 2003 incidents fire officials want to be "satisfied" that certain objectives are being met. Larger clubs such as Harry O's on Main Street and Club Suede in Kimball Junction would have to comply with a detailed list of criteria dealing with crowd control, evacuation procedures and occupancy loads to qualify for an Assembly Occupancy and Operational Permit.
For instance, a club would be required to have one trained crowd manager for every 100 occupants, and then one supervisor for every three managers (or 300 people). In cases where crowds reached 500 or more, a fire inspector or law enforcement official might be deemed necessary on site as well.
The crowd managers/supervisors would be responsible for making sure all means of egress exits, doorways, aisleways, halls, etc. were maintained and accessible. That would include keeping snow from blocking exits and stairs outside.
"In the event of an emergency," Adams said, "they would also then begin with evacuation and direct people to the closest exit so you don't get everyone going to the main exit and causing a panic scene and congesting that exit."
Crowd management also would be accountable for keeping an accurate occupancy count in the establishment to prevent overcrowding and so emergency personnel would know if everybody had evacuated or not.
The permit would also require: a $50 annual fee; submitted emergency evacuation plans; reports on occupancy loads and seating plan arrangements; emergency evacuation training and drills with employees; and that announcements be made five minutes before a band starts playing to inform crowds where the nearest exits are.
Adams compared the exit announcements to those you'd hear on airplanes, the idea being that clubbers "get a mental note that if something does happen they know where to go to."
With Sundance and its huge club-hopping crowds beginning Thursday, Adams said the Park City Fire District wants "to get everyone on the same page" as far as crowd control and emergency evacuation goes. They're hoping to eventually have a meeting with club owners to go over the plan.
"For the most part, all the clubs have been really good up here too," he said. "They've been good at preventing them (emergency situations) from happening."
Regular inspections a minimum of once or twice a month will continue to be conducted as well.
"With the Sundance Film Festival," he added, "we'll probably be out every night."