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Posts Tagged ‘pyrotechnic fires’

Fire Sprinklers Save Lives

Tuesday, February 23rd, 2016

Huge cheering crowd at concertLast weekend, a band at a Phoenix, Ariz., nightclub used a flammable liquid at the front of the stage, causing a fire. Because the fire sprinkler closest to the fire activated and extinguished the flames, no one was injured in the event. Thirteen years ago, a similar fire (caused by band pyrotechnics) in West Warwick, R.I., took the lives of 100 people and injured 230 others. The sole difference between the two events? The Rebel Lounge in Arizona has a fire sprinkler system; the Station nightclub in Rhode Island did not.

NFSA LogoThe National Fire Sprinkler Association (NFSA) commends not only those involved in extinguishing the Arizona fire, but also the local officials who had the foresight to adopt fire sprinkler requirements. Fire safety professionals and victims agree that sprinkler systems save lives.

John Barylick, author of “Killer Show, The Station Nightclub Fire, America’s Deadliest Rock Concert,” said, “Unfortunately, humans can be very slow learners when it comes to playing with fire in places of public assembly – witness this week’s near-tragedy at the Rebel Lounge. Fortunately, local officials there had enacted common-sense sprinkler requirements, and disaster was averted.”

Some Rebel Lounge customers complained that sprinklers stopped the show. In response, one Rhode Island survivor, Rob Feeney, who lost his fiancée and received second and third-degree burns, offered his own insights:

“As a survivor of the Station Nightclub fire, I want to tell everyone who is upset because the fire sprinkler activation stopped the show, (to) be thankful for that. Fire is fast, and while you think you can escape, I’m here to tell you it’s too fast. We must unite in support of fire sprinklers.”

Sprinklers were invented by an American named Henry S. Parmalee in 1874, to protect his piano factory. Until the 1940s and 1950s, sprinkler systems were installed almost exclusively for the protection of buildings, especially warehouses and factories. Insurance savings, which could offset the cost of the system in a few years’ time, were major incentives.

SprinklerAutomatic fire sprinklers are individually heat-activated, and tied into a network of piping with water under pressure. When the heat of a fire raises the sprinkler temperature to its operating point (usually 165ºF), a solder link will melt or a liquid-filled glass bulb will shatter to open that single sprinkler, releasing water directly over the source of the heat.

NFPAAccording to a recent study by the NFPA, when sprinklers operated, they were effective 96 percent of the time, resulting in a combined performance of operating effectively in 87 percent of all reported fires. Sprinklers are effective because they do not rely upon human factors such as familiarity with escape routes or emergency assistance to operate automatically in the area of fire origin. They go to work immediately, preventing a fire from growing undetected to a dangerous size, while simultaneously sounding an alarm. In most cases, this prevents the danger of intense heat associated with fast-growing infernos, which are capable of trapping and killing dozens of building occupants.

If you are still on the fence about incorporating a fire sprinkler system into your facility, consider these five fire sprinkler facts, adapted from the National Fire Sprinkler Association (NFSA):

  1. Smoke does not set off fire sprinklers. Sprinklers are activated by heat. In fact, the heat necessary to set off the average sprinkler is anywhere from 150 to 165° F, achievable only by fire.
  2. The only sprinkler heads that will activate in the event of a fire are the ones located closest to a fire. In 81 percent of structure fires, only one or two sprinkler heads are activated.
  3. CHIANG MAI, THAILAND MAY 17: Fire in Warehouses - catch fire inFire sprinklers produce far less water damage than fire hoses. The average sprinkler discharges just 10-26 gallons of water per minute, while a fire hose produces150-250 gallons. In most cases, structures without fire sprinklers are heavily or completely destroyed by the mix of fire and water damage caused by fire hoses.
  4. Nationally, fire sprinklers cost $1.61 per square foot of coverage. Overall, the cost of installing fire sprinklers is comparable to installing carpeting or cabinets. Most insurance companies provide discounts to businesses and homeowners that have fire sprinklers, which, compounded over time, can pay back the costs.
  5. Fire sprinklers are not unsightly. Modern advances in fire sprinkler technology have enabled architects, contractors and designers to install fire sprinklers into residential properties and businesses in ways that are aesthetically pleasing and concealing. In fact, most people do not even notice fire sprinklers.

Over the past two decades, building codes have increasingly called for sprinklers throughout buildings for life safety, especially buildings in which rapid evacuation of occupants is difficult or the hazard posed by contents is high. And, according to the NFSA, “Aside from firefighting and explosion fatalities, there has never been a multiple loss of life in a ‘fully-sprinklered’ building due to fire or smoke.”

Save livesFire sprinklers buy time. Time buys life. Remember that safety is a daily priority, not just where fire safety is concerned. So be sure to think about ways to #BeSafe all of the time. A convenient and affordable way to make sure you are prepared for disasters and emergencies of virtually every kind is to subscribe to the Allied Universal Training System by Universal Fire/Life Safety Services, which has been designed to help improve and save lives. For more information about the best system out there, or to subscribe, click here.

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Fire Kills 234 in Brazil–Demonstrates Tragic Pattern of Failing to Learn from History

Tuesday, January 29th, 2013


Last weekend, 234 died in a fire which broke out in a crowded nightclub in Brazil. The sixth such fire in a decade, the tragedy highlights the importance of business owners and fire safety professionals applying lessons learned from previous mistakes to avoid repeating similar disasters. Fires in China, Russia, Argentina, Thailand and the U.S. should have provided plenty of important fire-safety lessons for club owners in Brazil to apply. Had they studied those fires, they could have avoided the most recent nightclub fire-related tragedy.

Rhode Island: A popular rock band took the stage at a nightclub in West Warwick, Rhode Island in 2003. The show included dangerous pyrotechnics which set fire to flammable soundproofing foam that lined the walls and ceiling—killing 100 and injuring 200.

Argentina: A December 2004 fire killed 194 people at an overcrowded working-class nightclub in Buenos Aires, Argentina, after a flare ignited ceiling foam.

China: Fireworks shot off at a birthday party at a Latin-style bar and restaurant in China’s Fujian province sparked a fire which claimed 15 lives in January, 2009.

Russia, 2009: Fireworks triggered a blaze at a nightclub in Perm, Russia in December, 2009, killing 156 people. The fire began after an indoor fireworks display ignited a plastic ceiling decorated with branches.

Thailand: A fire swept through a popular nightclub on the Thai island of Phuket killing four people in early August, 2012.

One survivor of the Rhode Island fire, Todd King, reportedly woke up on Sunday morning by a storm of text messages from fellow survivors of the Rhode Island blaze, all asking, “Can you believe this is happening again?”

King is indignant—“I’m surprised nobody has learned.”

Another Rhode Island survivor, Victoria Eagan, observed that several fires since the 2003 tragedy have been caused by indoor pyrotechnics igniting materials in the building in recent years, “We seem doomed to repeat history. I wish (people) could learn.”

Thus far, investigators say the source of the blaze in Brazil was a band’s small pyrotechnics’ show. The fire and toxic smoke created by burning foam sound insulation material on the ceiling engulfed the Brazilian club within seconds.  Authorities said band members who were on the stage confirmed their use of pyrotechnics during the show.

The fact nightclub owners have failed to learn is especially disconcerting because, after the Rhode Island blaze, sweeping changes were made to that state’s fire code, with the intention of preventing similar occurrences in the future. Rhode Island fire stations shared a common goal and battle cry: “Never again!”

As a result of associated fire code changes:

  1. Sprinklers are now required in nightclubs and bars with occupancy limits of 100 or more.
  2. Nightclub workers must be trained in fire safety.
  3. Money was set aside for additional fire safety classes in schools.
  4. Pyrotechnics were banned in all but large public venues.
  5. Local fire marshals were empowered to order immediate repairs and write tickets for violations.

In an emailed statement, the Station Fire Memorial Foundation, which is building a memorial to those affected by the Rhode Island fire, compared the two tragedies, “One cannot help but notice the similarities between this tragedy and the Station nightclub fire that occurred nearly 10 years ago.”

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