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Surviving A Nightclub Fire: 7 Tips On How To Get Out Alive

[The original photo has been removed -- ed.]

On Feb. 20, 2003 - nine years ago today - Great White performed at the Station nightclub in West Warwick, R.I. During opener "Desert Moon," spray-style pyrotechnic gerbs (a kind of firework that shoots a stream of sparks) went off.

Couple that with highly flammable low-density polyurethane foam that encased the Station like a cocoon, and a low-lying ceiling without a sprinkler system, and you have a recipe for disaster.

The flames spread out at about one foot per second. According to Gina Russo's book From the Ashes, the Station was protected under a "grandfather" clause in Rhode Island state law, which exempted the club from having a sprinkler system because the club was built before the law was enacted.

One of the main reasons the fire was so deadly was because of the type of foam that was used to insulate the Station, polyurethane, isn't normally used for sound absorption. Even worse, the company that sold the foam didn't tell buyers about its flammability.

The Station fire killed 100 people, including Great White guitarist Ty Longley and the show's emcee, local deejay Mike "The Doctor" Gonsalves. At least 100 others were severely injured.

The band's tour manager, Daniel Michel Biechele, pled guilty to 100 counts of involutary manslaughter and was sentenced to 15 years - four in prison and 11 years' probation. The Station's owners also served similar sentences.

Here are some tips that can help you survive a fire such as this:

7. If there is no sprinkler system in the club, leave.

Seriously, your life is more important than a good night on the town. It only takes a spark to get a fire going. Those people in the Station would still be alive had there been a sprinkler system. They would have had an easier time escaping the inferno.

6. Agree on a meeting spot.

If an emergency happens, meet your guest at that meeting spot, and do not wander away from that spot.

5. Have a communication plan.

We live in an age where cell phones are prevalent, so there is no excuse to not have a communication plan. During and after The Who concert tragedy at Cincinnati's Riverfront Coliseum in December 1979 , local rock radio deejay Craig Kopp encouraged those leaving the concert to pull over and call their loved ones and let them know they were alive. Having your phone off is not an excuse or option. Trust me, it will give your friends and loved ones peace of mind.

 

4. Check in on Facebook.

In case something happens to you, this may be the only way that you can be tracked. If you don't have a smartphone, then get your buddy to either add you on Facebook (if they haven't already) and check you in or take your iPod touch or smart tablet (if you have one) with you and do so from there.

3. Look for the exits and find a path towards them.

Though this one is fairly obvious, you need to find these and remember where they are.

2. Protect yourself from smoke inhalation.

If you have a jacket or shirt on, wet it and put it against your mouth. (Women should only use the shirt on if they have an undershirt on.) Do not use a nearby bar rag, because it may contain flammable chemicals.

1. React when you hear the smoke alarm

If you hear a smoke alarm, chances are it is real and not part of the show. Find the nearest exit and leave.


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