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Nightclub fire safety

fireOn Sunday 27 January, Brazil encountered its most deadly fire for over 50 years. The blaze, which took place at the Kiss nightclub in the southern city of Santa Maria, devastatingly claimed 213 lives and left a country – as well as the wider global community – angry, distressed and confused about how such an awful thing could take place and cause such ruin.

The fire, which was reportedly started after a band member used pyrotechnics on-stage and then worsened by the use of polyurethane foam, prompted an outcry of national mourning. A procession of Brazilian residents – thought to total over 35,000 people – walked through the streets Santa Maria, commemorating the victims of the tragedy and calling for justice for those responsible.

Various police investigations and fire industry reports have been conducted since the fire took place in January and, according to The Guardian, the results have documented a “catalogue of negligence”. A number of factors contributed to the disastrous nature of the fire, such as the use of polyurethane foam in the ceiling for its soundproofing properties which caught fire, releasing toxic smoke.

The horrific events of that night have been felt throughout the world, especially for the families of those involved, but also in the fire safety and regulatory community which has called for tighter controls in public venues, specifically in nightclubs.

Polyurethane foam has come under considerable criticism and harsher regulations are being requested. Polyurethane foam, a commonly used material in nightclubs due to its soundproofing qualities, has already been banned in clubs in the US since a similar nightclub fire, involving pyrotechnics and the foam, killed 100 people at The Station nightclub in Rhode Island in 2003. Reports at the time said “the speed at which the fire burned was a significant factor in the large loss of life and can be primarily attributed to the pyrotechnics and the polyurethane foam”.

However, it’s not just the use of the polyurethane foam which caused the Brazilian nightclub fire to create such devastation. Additionally, there were a lack of emergency exits, the evacuation procedure was unclear – many bodies were found in the toilets after the toilet doors were mistaken for exits – and there was also no emergency lighting system which further compounded the confusion and panic. A collectively poor attempt at fire safety is largely to blame and has prompted local authorities and fire industry experts to reinforce the importance of general fire safety in public spaces.

The London Fire Brigade issued a warning to clubs, pubs and restaurants the day after the Brazilian fire, advising them to not be “complacent” with their fire safety procedures.  They continued to say that under current UK fire safety laws, the responsibility for fire safety lies firmly with the owners who are “legally required to have up-to-date fire safety plans, including a fire risk assessment, which takes into account how people would escape in the event of a fire”.  They also warned owners that failure to comply with these laws and regulations could result in fines of “tens of thousands of pounds” or “in the worse cases, sent to prison”.

So, in light of the awful events in Santa Maria and in accordance with a reinforced pressure to fully conform to all aspects of The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order, fire industry specialists are urging owners and managers of nightclubs to know the importance of fire safety training and ensure the safety of those who work within or visit your property…

#1 Undertake regular risk assessments

  • A Fire Risk Assessment is a requirement by law and should be conducted regularly and updated whenever necessary.
  • A complex and confusing task, fire specialists recommend hiring an expert to conduct your risk assessment as they have a more experienced knowledge of the risks and hazards present in particular environments.
  • Fire safety experts can then also undertake any remedial work necessary, such as the installation of appropriate fire alarm systems and advising the most safe and efficient methods of evacuation.

#2 Install fire safety equipment

  • Ensure all necessary fire safety equipment – including fire alarms, fire extinguishers, fire safety signs and emergency lighting systems are installed in accordance with all the necessary laws and regulations.
  • Equipment should be purchased from a reputable supplier and installed by a professional.
  • Periodic maintenance should be undertaken to make sure your equipment functions flawlessly and reliably in the event they are ever needed.

#3 Use portable appliances safely

  • Electrical appliances are the cause of a huge number of fires in commercial properties throughout the UK, meaning it is vital any used in your environment should be safe and regularly tested.
  • Portable Appliance Testing (PAT) is a requirement by law and should be conducted periodically by a trained, fire safety expert.
  • Additionally, you should make sure electricity is being used safely – never overload sockets, use faulty extension leads or use water in electrical surroundings.

#4 Provide safe methods of evacuation

  • It is vital that you clearly mark a number of alternative methods of evacuation, assessing them beforehand to ensure they are safe and efficient exit ways.
  • Safety signs should be installed, clearly and obviously directing people towards the nearest exit. You should also make sure a high quality, fully functional emergency lighting system is installed to aid evacuation and reduce the panic that can ensue after sudden darkness.

Make sure you maintain your equipment and keep your exit ways clear – do not leave anything obstructing passageways and doorways and make sure there are no leads, cables torn carpets or spillages which could cause people to trip or fall. Bio

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Elite Fire Protection in London are experts within the fire safety industry and are one of the country’s leading suppliers of fire safety equipment. With specialist knowledge of commercial buildings and public spaces – including nightclubs, bars and restaurants – they are perfectly placed to make sure you are conforming to all your legal requirements and contractual obligations.

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