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Final Nightclub Fire Report Urges Code Compliance

National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) fire investigators have urged all state and local governments to adopt and aggressively enforce national model building and fire safety codes for nightclubs. Additionally, in a report released June 29, NIST called for some significant changes to further strengthen the model codes based on the findings from the agency's investigation of the Feb. 20, 2003, fire at The Station nightclub in W. Warwick, R.I., that killed 100 people.

The investigation concluded that "strict adherence to the 2003 model codes available at the time of the fire would go a long way to preventing similar tragedies in the future. Changes to the codes subsequent to the fire made them stronger. By making some additional changes—and state and local agencies adopting and enforcing them—we can strengthen occupant safety even further."

"Based on our investigation findings and the comments received on our draft report, we are making 10 recommendations in our final report for increased occupant safety in nightclubs that reinforce the current model codes and proposing additional changes that will make them even more effective," said Lead Investigator William Grosshandler.

Seven of the 10 NIST recommendations support and add to the actions already taken by the State of Rhode Island and national model code development organizations since The Station nightclub fire. Examples include requiring all nightclubs with occupancies of more than 100 people to have sprinklers, tighter restrictions on the use of flammable materials in finish products, and setting maximum permitted evacuation times (90 seconds for nightclubs similar in size to or smaller than The Station). Other recommendations address emergency preparedness and response practices.

The remaining three NIST recommendations call for more research on human behavior in emergencies, fire spread and suppression, and computer-aided decision tools—the data from which could yield further improvements in and maximize the effectiveness of these lifesaving regulations.

For further information, see Final NIST Rhode Island Nightclub Fire Report Urges Strict Adherence to and Strengthening of Current Model Safety Codes.

Released June 30, 2005, Updated January 13, 2023