The fourth deadliest nightclub fire in U.S. history, a blaze at The Station nightclub in W. Warwick, RI, on February 20, 2003, claimed 100 lives. After the fire, NFPA enacted tough new code provisions for fire sprinklers and crowd management in nightclub-type venues. Those provisions mark sweeping changes to the codes and standards governing safety in assembly occupancies.
Video: Station nightclub fire survivor Robert Feeney.talks about his experience the night of the fire and how it later led to his work as a sprinkler advocate.
Resources on the Station nightclub fire
- "Pilot Demonstration of an Impact Evaluation Protocol: NIST NCST Recommendations Arising from The Station Nightclub Fire", a project of NFPA and the Fire Protection Research Foundation.
- The first reports of a deadly fire in Brazil in January sounded all too familiar: an overcrowded nightclub, pyrotechnics, a raging fire, no sprinklers, too few exits, horrific losses. The fire at the Kiss club in the city of Santa Maria ultimately claimed more than 230 lives and injured hundreds more. Ten years ago, a fire at the Station nightclub in Rhode Island killed 100 people.
NFPA Journal®, March/April 2013
- Ten years after The Station nightclub fire, a survivor returns to the site to remember the fiancée and friends he lost, and recount how he became a champion for fire sprinklers.
NFPA Journal®, January/February 2013
- A bartender working the rear bar at the Station Nightclub the night of February 20, 2003, had an immediate response to a fire spreading from the main stage: she grabbed the cash drawer — something she always did when leaving her post — and led several patrons through the kitchen to an exit.
NFPA Journal®, January/February 2011
- On the fifth anniversary of the E2 crowd crush and The Station nightclub fire, NFPA returns to an important moment in codes and standards history.
NFPA Journal®, March/April 2008
- On March 20, 2003, at an emergency meeting and hearing of NFPA’s Technical Committee on Assembly Occupancies, one NFPA member rose to speak. Al Gray, a fire and life safety official with the Massachusetts Bay Transit Authority, had a prepared statement, but instead spoke from the heart about his son Derek, who died at The Station nightclub four weeks earlier on February 20. His words, along with the other speakers, galvanized the meeting.
NFPA Journal®, March/April 2008
- Slideshow: NFPA investigator Robert Duval recounts the scene at The Station nightclub.
- Final NIST report (2005) on The Station nightclub fire.
Summary of NFPA code changes since Rhode Island and E2 Nightclub tragedies
Within hours of the Rhode Island fire, NFPA made available a wide range of safety information relating to public places of assembly. This included safety tips for club-goers; statistical and historical information about other major nightclub fires, NFPA Journal® articles, and links to NFPA fire investigation summaries of similar events. In addition, portions of relevant codes and standards were made available online, as well as an inspection checklist for assembly occupancies.
Three weeks after the Rhode Island nightclub fire, the NFPA Technical Committee on Assembly Occupancies and Membrane Structures held an emergency meeting in Boston. Some 30 committee members and alternates, as well as Station survivors, victims' families, and members of the fire-safety community, gathered to discuss the Station fire and a similar crowd-crush incident that killed 21 people not long before at Chicago's E2 nightclub (February 17, 2003).
Participants of the meeting proposed that NFPA issue emergency code amendments, called Tentative Interim Amendments (TIAs). TIAs, which are processed in accordance with Section 5 of NFPA's Regulations Governing Committee Projects, are emergency changes to an NFPA document code or standard that occurs between the current edition and next edition of that particular document. These code changes are considered tentative because they have only been approved by the technical committee and NFPA's Standards Council, but have not gone yet to go through the full codes- and standards-making process that includes a review by the public through the proposal and comment phases in the revision process. The TIAs are effective only between editions of a document and automatically become a proposal for the next edition, when it's then subject to all of the procedures of the entire open-consensus revision process.
As a result of the tentative nature of these amendments, jurisdictions must adopt TIAs independently of their adoption of the relevant NFPA document. At this point, some jurisdictions have opted to use the TIAs as guidance towards establishing their own legislation. In an effort to provide jurisdictions with codes and standards addressing the latest issues in building and life safety, NFPA offers support services, including free training, to assist state and local officials with adoption of these TIAs as well as the adoption of major NFPA codes and standards.
On July 25, 2003, the Standards Council reviewed and issued the technical committee's recommended TIAs for NFPA 101®, Life Safety Code®, 2003 edition, and NFPA 5000®, Building Construction & Safety Code®, 2003 edition. The TIAs, which went into effect August 14, 2003, require the following changes:
- fire sprinklers in new nightclubs and similar assembly occupancies and in existing facilities that accommodate more than 100
- building owners to inspect exits to ensure they're free of obstructions and to maintain records of each inspection
- The presence of at least one trained crowd manager for all gatherings, except religious services. For larger gatherings, additional crowd managers are required at a ratio of 1:250
- Prohibit festival seating for crowds of more than 250 unless a life-safety evaluation approved by the authority having jurisdiction has been performed. Festival seating, according to NFPA 101®, is a form of audience/spectator accommodation in which no seating, other than a floor or ground surface, is provided for the audience to gather and observe a performance
- Read the TIAs related to assembly occupancies for NFPA 101 and NFPA 5000. (PDF, 159 KB)
"Safety codes like NFPA 101 and NFPA 5000 reflect the will of society on these type of important technical issues," said James M. Shannon, president of NFPA, "and it will take time to eventually measure the full positive impact of these code amendments. But in the long-term, they will undoubtedly make our world a better and safer place to live."
The codes and standards development oversight body of the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), known as the Standards Council, recently issued two of the Association’s key safety codes that will require fire sprinklers in all nursing homes, in new construction of one- and two-family dwellings, and in all new construction of nightclubs and like facilities, as well as for existing nightclubs and like facilities with capacities over 100.
Provisions requiring fire sprinklers in all nursing homes, in new construction of one- and two-family dwellings, and in all new construction of nightclubs and like facilities, as well as for existing nightclubs and like facilities with capacities over 100, now also apply to the 2006 editions of NFPA 101®, Life Safety Code® and NFPA 5000®, Building Construction and Safety Code®. They went into effect on August 18, 2005.
“The code provision for sprinklers in new one- and two-family dwellings is a milestone in fire protection,” said James M. Shannon, NFPA president. “It is a significant step in reducing the rate of fire death and injury in the place where people are at most risk for fire—their own homes.”