A couple of weeks ago, a fire at a nightclub in Thailand killed 4 people. And just a few years ago, at the Santika nightclub in Bangkok 66 people were killed. People enjoy going out and having a good time, and although life safety responsibility should fall on the club owner (the Station nightclub owners learned this at a cost of $176,000,000), ultimately you are responsible for your own safety.
When entering a club, or to ensure the safety of your favorite watering hole, here are 7 things to look out for to ensure that you come out alive. I call these, "The 7 Deadly Sins of Life Safety."
- Fire protection systems: this include fire sprinkler systems and fire alarm systems. Look at the ceiling. Do you see sprinkler heads? Look around do you see hornstrobes on the walls or pull stations near the door you just entered? Having these required systems in place are the first line of defense in fire prevention and life safety.
- Overcrowding: nightclubs (and similar establishments) are given a specific occupant load by the local fire authority (typically 7 square feet per person), this occupant load numberis to be posted in a conspicuous location. Does the club feel too crowded? Is it problematic to just stand without getting knocked over? Can you get from where you are to where you want to be with reasonable ease? An overcrowded club can presents multiple dangers to yourself.
- Exits: when you first arrive locate all exits. Are they clearly visible and accessible? Is the path to the exit clear of obstructions? In case of emergency, most people will exit through the way they came in, it is important to locate alternate exits and plan for their use.
- Interior finish: this includes all papers and coverings that must meet a certain flammability rate. You will not be able to know this, however, you can look around to see if there are open flames (tiki torches) inside, lots of vegatation, hangings/material/cloth strung throughout the ceiling, or carpet and foam on the walls. These are potential warning signs, of unapproved interior finishes.
- Electric: are there many extension cords strung together/interconnected throughout the facility or attached to the ceiling? Can you spot exposed wiring and open outlets/switches/junction boxes? These are electrical hazards, and are in violation of the National Electric Code.
- Pyrotechnics: all pyrotechnics are to be permitted through the local fire authority. A properly permitted pyrotechnic display will have evident safety features, and often time official personnel on standby. Always use your goat. If something does not look right, or feels unsafe, you should probably leave, because you could be putting yourself at risk.
- Emergency plan: all nightclubs are to have an emergency plan in place, that the employees are trained on. This plan should outline potential emergency situations, and actions to be taken. You will not know this plan. The next best thing is to always have a plan of your own. Identify a person to contact in case of emergency, have a meeting place, if alarms sound or sprinklers activate exit the facility immediately.
For more information and safety sheets check out the National Fire Protection Association.