01 Sep Protect Yourself From Life-safety Risks in Assembly Occupancies
An assembly occupancy is defined by the National Fire Protection Association as “An occupancy used for a gathering of 50 or more persons for deliberation, worship, entertainment, eating, drinking, amusement, awaiting transportation or similar uses.”
Since many people enjoy going out, they encounter assembly occupancies on a regular basis. This could include going to a school play, attending a church service, dining at a favorite restaurant or watching a band at a nightclub with friends. In these cases, how often do our community members take the time to stop and consider:
Where Are The Exits?
- How would I get out of here in a fire?
- Are there enough exits for all of these people?
- If they are like most people, the answer is not often enough.
History of Tragedy
Each year, there are tragic news reports of fire and non-fire events in assembly occupancies with shocking death and injury tolls. Some recent incidents include:
- Fire in the KISS nightclub in Brazil, on Jan. 28, killing 233.
- Fire in the Cromagnon Republic nightclub, Buenos Aires, Argentina, Dec. 30, 2004, killing 180.
- Fire in the Ycuá Bolaños Botánico Supermarket, Asunción, Paraguay, Aug. 1, 2004, killing 400.
- Fire in The Station Nightclub, West Warwick, R.I., Feb. 20, 2003, killing 100.
- Panic evacuation in the E2 Nightclub, Chicago, Feb. 17, 2003, killing 21.
As you can see, the issue of emergency exiting of public assembly occupancies is not unique to the United States. Here are six suggestions that can be easily performed and help your residents decide if the building may be safe.
- Note the location of emergency exits when they enter a building and ensure that there is an adequate number. If the place has only one way in and out, use it at once.
- Ensure that exits are accessible and not locked or blocked. A business owner that allows an exit to be locked or blocked does not deserve anyone’s business.
- See if the building has emergency lighting. If they think the room is dark during the performance, wait until the lights go out in an emergency.
- Gauge the size of the crowd. If the place is packed, they may want to go somewhere else — restroom lines alone can be hazardous.
- Be aware of their surroundings. Many assembly occupancies have dim lighting, and in a fire or power failure, it is a good idea to know where they are.
- Watch the alcohol consumption. Too much alcohol can impair judgment and motor skills, which can endanger one’s ability to get out of a building in an emergency.
The few minutes needed to scan the building are well worth the time and effort. No one ever heads out thinking tragedy may lie just ahead.
Those who make plans in advance are much better prepared than those who do not. Share these thoughts with your family and neighbors.