Russia is still coming to terms with its most deadly fire since Soviet times after 109 people died and more than 130 were injured in a blaze at a packed provincial nightclub on December 4, 2009.
The fire started when a performance artist threw pyrotechniques too high and burnt the ceiling which quickly ignited the walls. The Lame Horse club, where the disaster occurred, was celebrating its eighth anniversary on the day.
One of the fireworks, tossed into the air and intended to be caught, hit the plastic covering of the ceiling, igniting the explosive. The decorative woven twigs affixed to the walls and ceiling also caught fire, filling the building with smoke. Panic gave way to a stampede when many patrons found themselves cut off from one public exit, management having sealed off other doors and the public unaware of emergency exits behind the stage.
Fire Safety: Why & How
Clearly, the Lame Horse Club owners had been callous about this aspect of safety, given that Russia’s Emergency Situations Minister Sergei Shoigu stated that the owners had been fined twice in the past for breaking fire safety regulations.
However, “Fire Safety” is not just a fancy term, and the implementation process not as complicated as is made out to be; there are some key elements of the process which can be easily adhered to.
Examples of these include:
An example of how following these rules could have proved a life-saver in the Lame Horse lies in the fact that most victims died from smoke inhalation and carbon monoxide poisoning. There are fireproofing devices available that cut off not just the fire itself but even the radiant heat that emanates from it, as also the smoke and gases that are just as deadly. And in a place like a nightclub where the aesthetics imparted by tasteful and expensive interior décor is just as important as safety, fire resistant glass which offers this kind of protection is now abundantly available. Fire doors that are thoroughly tested for fire resistance and also adorn building interiors with their seemingly delicate appearance are one of the best choices for this purpose.
Also, it is important that a fire exit door opens towards the outside (persons trapped inside must be able to open the door by pushing and not pulling it). In the past, there have been cases where victims have died not because of the fire itself but thanks to a stampede caused by large numbers of people rushing towards the fire exit door at the same time, making it impossible for the door to be pulled open.
NOT an option
Russia records up to 18,000 fire deaths a year, several times the per-capita rate in the United States and other western countries; worldwide, nightclub fires have killed thousands of people. Another similar accident anywhere in the world will only establish deliberate carelessness by responsible authorities, because as is abundantly clear, fire safety is neither complicated nor expensive; not as compared to a human life anyway.