Message - Learning from the Nightclub Disaster in Rhode Island

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Posted by  VDG on February 24, 2003 at 13:59:14:

Is there more that architects can do to help prevent another tragedy such as this?
I believe that there is much we can do. The exit signs were invisible
during the panic. I think that the entire door and frame should be illuminated. I've worked on the largest nightclubs in the country. We have designed them to egress over 5,000 persons. The problem is, when we (the architects) leave the site, the club owners don't listen to us and do as they want. They often have conflicting issues with what we are trying to do. They are mostly concerned with security and keeping people in or out as opposed to providing proper egress. Often curtains are used to block the view of doors. These nightclubs make fortunes for the owners. I know that they can provide a safer place or their patrons. Forget about grand fathering sub-conforming spaces. These clubs can afford sprinkler systems. If they can't, then they can move elsewhere. We often put the rights of individuals (owners) over the rights of many (patrons). I've designed and partied in these places and many of them are trouble. Its time to start cracking the whip on these places. Here are some of the more obvious changes to the laws that I've come up with, Please feel free to add or amend my ongoing list.

1. Stricter enforcement of non-combustible materials throughout entire space overseen by Fire departments AND Building Departments
2. Stricter square feet per occupant load calculations.
3. Automatic Sprinkler Protection for all place of occupancy over 50 persons for all Eating and drinking, and Cabaret
4. Provide brighter and more adequate Exit signage, Make it more extremely obvious.
5. Stricter Alcohol Lisesensing laws that work in conjunctioin with all municipal departments including DOB and Fire Dept codes.
6. Wider Egress stairs doors and passageways.
7. Municipalities should step up inspections and make sure that these clubs adhere to the approved public assembly plans.

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