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When a Fire Breaks Out
When a fire breaks out in a crowded place, everyone runs to the entrance. People panic and start pushing. Some fall down. Some even die. When you walk into a public place, plan an exit strategy. And keep in mind, the best way out may not be the way in.
On February 20, 2003 at The Station nightclub in Rhode Island, 100 club-goers died needlessly when the band's stage pyrotechnics ignited nearby walls and ceilings. Immediately, more than two-thirds of the 400-plus people in attendance started for the main entrance. But the quick spread and intensity of the smoke and flames caused the crowd to panic and surge forward. Individuals fell, causing others to fall and, in less than 90 seconds, the front door was hopelessly blocked.
After the tragedy, the Texas State Fire Marshal's office conducted a fire safety evaluation of 189 nightclubs, bars, and dance halls in eight randomly selected counties to determine if safety violations existed similar to those that contributed to the Station Club fire. Of the 189 facilities inspected, 182 - fully 96%! - had exit violations.
Now, consider that Texas has over 20,000 clubs, bars, and dance halls, and hundreds of thousands of other types of facilities and buildings; some in code, some not. It led us to create "Have an Exit Strategy," a campaign initiative with one primary message:
When you enter a public place or building, note where the Exits are located. And remember, in a fire, the best way out may not be the way in.
GOT AN EXIT STRATEGY?
You can't rely on others to protect you from a fire. When entering a building, here are a few things to look for:
EXITS: Make a mental note of where the exits are; not just the lighted Exit signs but, if you're on the first floor, windows as well.
DOORS: Are they blocked or locked? Sometimes, store and restaurant managers lock or barricade back doors to keep people from sneaking in or out. Musicians stack equipment cases in hallways. Club employees pile empty beer bottles and trash in front of back doors. If you ever see a hallway or door blocked, call it to the attention of the manager and the local fire marshal immediately.
CROWDS: Clubs, restaurants, and concert venues all have occupancy load limitations. If people are jammed in like sardines, move to an exit. If hallways and doors are also packed, call the fire marshal.
CROWDS 2: Fourth of July, New Year's Eve, weddings, birthdays, sorority and fraternity parties - when people get together to celebrate and alcohol is involved, safety goes out the window. If indoor fireworks, loosely strung halogen lights, hot plates, or space heaters are part of the crowd, maybe you shouldn't be.
FIXTURES: Paper and cloth decorations hanging from ceilings and walls, posters next to hot light fixtures, unstable, lit candles on tables, electric sockets jammed with extension cords. Looks like you just walked
into a firetrap.
Do's and Don'ts
It's the little things that start most fires. Below, are some of the more common, but often overlooked offenders.
Candles lend a special light to holidays and set just the right mood for listening to that new CD. They're also the leading cause of fires on campus.
- Buy candles in non-tipping,
non-flammable holders (jars)
and remove any labels or tags
- Position candles on stable, heat resistant surfaces
- Keep candles out of the reach of children and pets (who can inadvertently knock them over)
- Extinguish a candle by wetting the wick to snuff the flame
- Leave burning candles unattended
- Burn a candle near a window or where a breeze or draft can knock it into something flammable
- Place candles near flammable liquids (an aerosol hair spray can) or materials (curtains and posters)
- Use a candle when the wick reaches one-quarter inch from the bottom
Space heaters and fireplaces are the second leading cause of fire deaths in American homes and the leading cause of dwelling fires in December and January.
- Have heaters and fireplaces inspected annually
- Make sure heaters are properly installed, maintained, and fueled
- Keep heaters 3 ft away from anything that can burn (furniture, bedding, clothing, books, etc.)
- Use a heater only in spaces with proper ventilation to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning
- Turn off the heater if you smell fumes, feel dizzy, your eyes sting, or it emits sparks
- Smell gas? Turn off the heater, open windows, and go to another location to call the gas company
- Use a cell phone or flip an electrical switch on or off if you smell gas
- Use a heater with frayed wiring or broken or out of place ceramic radiant's
- Store flammable liquids near a heater
- Leave children or pets alone with a heater
- Place clothing on top of a heater
- Use a kitchen stove, outdoor grill, or fuel-burning apparatus to heat your apartment or home
Electric appliances, cords and extension cords. Computers, TVs, lamps, microwave ovens, refrigerators, electric chargers, irons, hair dryers - they all compete for wall plug space, especially in older dorms, apartments, and homes designed for "a less complicated world."
- Unplug appliances and devices when not in use and stow cords out off reach of children and pets
- Allow several inches of clearance around devises that generate heat (TVs, computer monitors, clocks, etc.)
- Keep all electrical devices away from water
- Check cords regularly for fraying
- Staple or nail an electrical cord to keep it in place
- Run cords underneath rugs
- Modify a cord's plug to fit an outlet
- Overload outlets with multiple adaptors or power strip
- Try to put out an electrical fire with water. Instead, use a dry fire extinguisher and call 911
Fireworks are a major cause of personal injury and property fires and are so dangerous they're banned by most colleges and universities and regulated or prohibited by cities and municipalities.
- Buy only from a licensed vendor who displays a permit from the Texas Fire Marshal's Office
- Read all directions prior to use
- Use fireworks in outdoor areas only, away from houses, brush, trees, and anything else that can catch fire
- Have plenty of water handy in case of an accidental fire
- Wear protective eye wear and clothing
- When finished, cool any debris with water and properly dispose of used fireworks
- Try to re-light a firework that malfunctioned. Douse it with water and throw it away
- Use aerial fireworks near power lines or roofs
- Dismantle fireworks
- Light fireworks in metal or glass containers
TO LEARN MORE
Or call: Office of the State Fire Marshal 512.676.6800