June 01, 2003
Meetings & Conventions: Newsline newsline.gif (8042 bytes)   RHODE ISLAND DISASTER PROMPTS SCRUTINY OF VENUES NATIONWIDE

Fire Safety in the Spotlight

Lounge act: Logging on at the Hilton New York
Lounge act: Logging on at the Hilton New York Since the deadly Feb. 20 nightclub fire in West Warwick, R.I., many safety officials around the country are re-evaluating fire codes and upping inspections in indoor venues.

“We’ve seen more attention being paid to nighttime gathering places from all corners of the country,” said Tom Olshanski, a consultant for the Emmitsville, Md.-based U.S. Fire Administration.

In Miami, the fire department vowed to step up inspections to every building in the city, while Baltimore’s fire marshal called for a ban on all open flames in restaurants, including tabletop candles.

The Quincy, Mass.-based National Fire Protection Association, which issues safety suggestions to local governments, is considering a mandate for any indoor assembly, except in a religious setting, to have one trained crowd manager per 250 attendees.

Yet, stricter laws or bans against nightclub pyrotechnics (as instituted in Boston) aren’t the only answers, according to Julie Heckman, executive director of the American Pyrotechnic Association in Bethesda, Md. “People who have followed coverage of the Rhode Island tragedy realize the standards and rules already in place were not followed,” she said.

For their part, Heckman added, event organizers can ensure sprinkler systems are in place and all decorative materials near open flame are fire retardant. Fire exits must be accessible, and permits need to be obtained for pyrotechnic displays.

Guidelines by the APA are online at


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