In the early morning hours of March 25, 1990, a fire at the Happy Land Social Club in the Bronx, New York, took the lives of 87 people. The Fire Department of New York requested the assistance of NIST in understanding the factors which contributed to this high death toll and to develop a strategy that might reduce the risk of a similar occurrence in the many similar clubs operating in the city.
NIST staff visited the fire scene on March 29, 1990, to gather data needed to perform an analysis with the HAZARD I Fire Hazard Assessment Method. Physical measurements taken on-site, along with floor plan drawings and newspaper accounts, provided the only data on which this analysis was based. No material samples were taken, and no testing was performed.
"Analysis of the Happy Social Club Fire With HAZARD I" (Journal of Fire Protection Engineering, Volume: 4, 1992, Pages: pp. 117 - 131) presents the reconstruction of the Happy Social Club fire using the HAZARD I fire hazard assessment method along with an examination of four potential mitigation strategies: automatic sprinklers, a door at the base of the stairway to the second floor, a second means of egress from the second floor, or a noncombustible interior finish. The paper concludes that the traditional second means of egress might have not have eliminated the observed fatalities. and that the noncombustible interior finish or sprinkler options would, with the former being the more cost effective approach.