NFPA reviews codes after club fire

Thursday, May 1, 2003

QUINCY, Mass. - Members of the National Fire Protection Association Technical Committee are looking at revisions to four of the life safety organization’s codes at an emergency meeting in mid-March following a fatal nightclub fire in Rhode Island and a crowd crush at a club in Chicago, incidents that killed 120 people in February.

Following an emotional public hearing where they heard testimony from many families of the victims of the West Warwick, R.I., Station nightclub, NFPA Technical Committee members debated four major issues that arose in those incidents, according to Casey Grant, NFPA’s assistant chief engineer.

Tentative Interim Amendments were proposed that would increase the use of automatic sprinklers in existing nightclubs, essentially raising the standards to the same level as that of new nightclubs. The committee also established a task force to look more closely at what threshold sprinklers would become mandatory.

Changes were also proposed to NFPA 101, the Life Safety code, specifically the elimination of festival seating, also known as general admission seating, until certain requirements could be met.

The group also proposed a tentative interim amendment that would require the use of crowd managers knowledgeable in public safety for all types of buildings.

Other groups have also submitted TIAs, Grant said, with the expected number to reach between six and a dozen different proposals.

The TIAs could be voted on as soon as July, after a public comment period.