February 20th, 2013 marks the 10-year anniversary of the tragic Station Nightclub fire that killed 100 people and injured 200. The fire is one of the most deadly nightclub fires in the history of the United States. Investigators found that the fire started when pyrotechnics used by the live band playing that night ignited polyurethane foam. The foam was being used as sound insulation on the nightclub’s walls and ceilings. Unfortunately, the nightclub was not equipped with an automatic fire sprinkler system. Once ignited, the fire spread quickly throughout the building. In less than five minutes, flames were observed breaking through the roof of the nightclub.

Most of the occupants tried to leave the nightclub by using the main front doorway, which quickly became jammed, causing a stampede in the narrow hallway, and essentially blocking the exit. This resulted in the many deaths and injuries during the incident.

According to Chris Jelenewicz, Engineering Program Manager with the Society of Fire Protection Engineers, “Inadequate fire protection features were a major contributing factor to the significant number of deaths and injuries…Because the fire and smoke spread so quickly and the building was not equipped with a fire suppression system, the building occupants just didn’t have enough time to get out alive.”

As a result of this deadly fire, many building codes and requirements were updated to include provisions for automatic fire sprinklers, but it’s still important to be aware of your surroundings when you are in public assembly facilities. The National Fire Protection Association has developed several fire safety resources.

The 10-year anniversary of the Station Nightclub fire is coming on the heels of a tragic Brazilian nightclub fire. Just weeks ago, over 230 lives were lost at Kiss Nightclub that exhibited striking  similarities to the fire at Station. Both fires were started by pyrotechnics, both clubs were overcrowded with inadequate exits, and neither club had automatic fire sprinklers installed.

By Jeff Harrington, CEO and Founder of Harrington Group, Inc.