Politics Brazil nightclub tragedy raises concerns about local fire safety By The New Political Posted on February 4, 2013 7 min read 0 0 603 In the aftermath of the deadly blaze that took over 200 lives at the Kiss Nightclub in Brazil on Jan. 27, fire safety in clubs, bars and other similar establishments has become a recent topic of interest worldwide. The chaos began when Gurizada Fandangueira, a local band playing at the club that fateful evening, ended one of their songs with an exploding pyrotechnic effect, which had not been approved for indoor use. The ceiling, covered in wires, immediately caught fire and the frightened patrons of the club – which was stuffed to over twice its legal capacity – began fleeing for the lone exit. “[Safety] has to do with [whether the materials are] explosives or flaming compounds. It doesn’t matter to the fire code if it’s in a bar or another place. The rules have to do with using these things indoors,” said Lyn Tolan, a spokesperson for the Ohio Department of Commerce, which includes the state fire marshal’s division. “A pyrotechnic is an explosive compound. There are also things categorized as flame effects,” she said, which involve the use of an open flame near a live audience. In this case, the disaster was caused by a pyrotechnic firework effect. Gurizada Fandangueira played regularly at Kiss and their show was famous for its pyrotechnic special effects. The disaster was one of the deadliest nightclub fires in history, but what many would consider the most tragic part of all is the fact that it easily could have been avoided had only some simple safety procedures been followed. Here in Ohio, all pyrotechnics and flame effects must be licensed by the state. This may come as a shock to some, as many people tend to conjure an image of exploding pyrotechnics when they think of dangerous effects involving fire. “Both have to be licensed,” Tolan said. “We don’t want people to be misled. There doesn’t have to be explosive material [for a compound to be dangerous].” But the illegal use of pyrotechnics is only half of this tragic story. The other half stems from a very important question: why was there only one exit? And not only that, but why was said exit – located at the end of a long, narrow hallway – so difficult to access? Brazil’s fire code has been criticized as faulty, according to several worldwide news reports, but here in Ohio there are strict rules regarding fire code in nightclubs, bars and similar establishments. “What we do is we have annual inspections of all businesses, and large establishments [such as nightclubs] would be no different,” said Battalion Chief Patrick Ferguson of the Columbus Division of Fire. “We check for fire code…we make sure that emergency exits are clearly marked, [and we] make sure that all [fire] extinguishers are marked.” In order to prepare for a potential disaster, firefighters must put in quite a bit of effort before the actual inspections even take place in order to ensure that the buildings are as safe as possible “Our fire companies do a lot of preplanning and building familiarization tours [to] get familiar with where the exits are and make sure we’re aware of the surroundings,” Ferguson said. One of the most crucial mistakes of the Kiss tragedy in Brazil is the fact that the club was dangerously overcrowded. According to CNN, the establishment was only licensed to hold 691 people, but there were over 2,000 concertgoers packed inside on the night of the deadly fire. Ohio’s fire inspectors have special procedures that they follow in order to ensure that the threat of overcrowding is all but eliminated. “We have actual inspectors that go out at night to the venues that have had overcrowding issues in the past, and we do spot checks to make sure they’re abiding by the law and the fire code that has been set down,” Ferguson said. As the world mourns the 235 souls that were lost in the tragedy in Brazil, nightclub patrons here in Ohio should rest assured that state safety officials are doing all they can to ensure that history does not repeat itself.