While the majority of fatal fires occur in the home, some of the largest life-loss fires (where large numbers of people die in a single incident) occur in places of public assembly such as hotels, nightclubs and theaters. The following are just a few of the tragic examples:
- April 23, 1940: Rhythm Nightclub, Natchez, Miss., 207 dead
- November 28, 1942: Coconut Grove Nightclub, Boston, Mass., 492 dead
- May 28, 1977: Beverly Hills Supper Club, Southgate, KY., 165 dead
- November 21, 1980: MGM Grand Hotel, Las Vegas, NV., 87 dead
- February 21, 2003: The Station Nightclub, West Warrick, RI., 100 dead
Over the last century untold hours of investigation and analysis have gone into finding common causes and situations that contributed to these deaths, both in order to understand how they occurred and prevent them from happening again; many of our fire codes today are a direct result of these findings. Most of these fires were found to have several things in common that contributed to the high numbers of people killed:
- Locked or blocked exits.
- Flammable decorations or interior finishes.
- Lack of or inoperable sprinkler systems.
- People trying to get out the same way they entered, not using a fire exit.
- Failure to follow existing fire codes.
- Failure to exit promptly after the fire started.
- Using elevators during the fire.
There are steps you can take to correct these problems, and prevent being injured or killed should another of these fires occur:
- Refuse to sleep, eat or attend events in establishments and hotels that don't have fire sprinklers.
- Always locate the nearest fire exits when you enter so you can quickly find your way out in an emergency.
- Locate the nearest fire extinguisher and alarm pull station.
- If the event is overcrowded, leave and contact the local fire department to report it.
- Contact the fire department if you find locked or blocked fire exits or other fire code violations.
- Quickly and calmly leave the building immediately in the event of an emergency.
- Never use the elevator in a fire, it may stop and trap you on the floor where the fire is, always use the stairways.
- If trapped by fire in a hotel or office, keep the door closed, stuff wet towels around door cracks and use the phone to contact 911 and report your location to the fire department.