Former fire marshal speaks with NPR about ongoing problems at nightclubs

Blog Post created by freddurso Employee on Feb 5, 2013

Raymond O'Brocki, former fire marshal of the Baltimore Fire Department, was recently interviewed on National Public Radio's (NPR) "Talk of the Nation" about the recent Brazil nightclub fire and how conditions at this venue  eerily matched safety shortfalls that contributed to some of the  deadliest blazes in U.S. history.

Happy Land Social Club
The Happy Land Social Club, pictured after a deadly blaze killed 87 people in 1990. New York City officials said the club was operating illegally and had no sprinklers, fire exits, emergency lights, or exit signs.

"The Coconut  Grove, Happy Land Social Club, The Station...and even the Iroquois Theater fire back in Chicago in 1903," he says.  "There are such recurring themes over and over and over again with these  fires; lack of egress, overcrowding, combustible wall coverings, a lack  of a notification, a crowd that doesn't know where the exits are, exits  that are locked and blocked. Codes aren't the problem--code enforcement is the problem." 

What has worked in O'Brocki's jurisdiction are spot checks at venues on nights and weekends, "bolstering up forces" on days bars and clubs are notoriously crowded, and developing business allies that pinpoint irresponsible club owners. During the program, O'Brocki even fields a call from the mother of a Station nightclub victim.

Listen to the segment, and review NFPA's extensive safety information on nightclubs and assembly occupancies.