There's been a lot of stuff written and said about the Station Nighclub fire and tragedy in which saw the loss of 100 lives and a further 200 injured.
I'm not here to call into question the response of the emergency services to this event.
But we MUST use events like this and 9/11 and Worcester and others to learn from.
What can we do better?
What needs to change?
How many of us can actually stand up with our hand on our hearts and say we do enough to PREVENT incidents from occurring?
When undertaking Emergency Management, we must understand that there is more to emergency management than just response- however many departments don't see the benefits. I've even had discussions with some who think that mitigation takes away their job!
Emergency Management should centre around “The Comprehensive Approach”, as defined in the Australian Emergency Manual #1- Concepts and Principles, published by Emergency Management Australia.
The Comprehensive Approach is about encompassing all hazards and in recognising that dealing with the risks to community safety, which such hazards create, requires a range of prevention/mitigation, preparedness, response and recovery (PPRR) programs and other risk management treatments.
Emergency Management is about-
prevention/mitigation activities, which seek to eliminate or reduce the impact of hazards themselves
and/or to reduce the susceptibility and increase the resilience of the community;
preparedness activities, which establish arrangements and plans and provide education and information
to prepare the community to deal effectively with such emergencies and incidents as may eventuate;
response activities, which activate preparedness arrangements and plans to put in place effective
measures to deal with emergencies and incidents; and
recovery activities, which assist a community affected by an emergency or incident in reconstruction
of the physical infrastructure and restoration of emotional, social, economic and physical well-being.
That's a lot to take in, but it's vital that we understand it.
If we take Rhode Island as an example, (And please, please note- I'm not critical of what they did and how they responded. I simply want to use it as an example of things we can do and contributing factors. In fact Rhode Island recently implemented some new legislation to address many safety issues- go to http://www.fsc.ri.gov/statutes/ ), let's consider a few things-
A packed nighclub (Some have even suggested, over crowded)
Alcahol being served.
A live band.
A an even livelier crowd.
Illegal pyrotechnics in use.
The pyrotechnics ignited the structure.
In the panic of the evacuation, 100 people were killed and over 200 injured. Many in the emergency exits.
Now take this event and think about what's in your area. Do you have pubs/bars and nighclubs with live music or any other form of entertainment?
Is alcahol served?
Are drugs likely to be present?
I'm certain every single department the worl over could answer yes to these few questions.
Now, what have you (Your department) done in preperation for these events that occur on a regular basis?
Are building inspections done, and up to date?
Have you ever done walk throughs on non-event days? (I beleive that walk throughs are a fantastic chance to see a building in "near perfect" conditions and to then consider all the what-ifs that could occur.)
Are the essential services being serviced and in working condition? These things take a small incident such as a fire and stop it before it becomes a major event- Bradford in the 80's is a good example (or bad!) a small fire that escalated in under 2 minutes and engulfed a whole soccer grandstand, killing multiple people.
Is your department involved in the pre-planning for events?
If not, why not?
We need to be proactive. We need to get out there and be aware of what's going on in the community.
I teach event safety and assist organisations with event planning as a full time job and my wife hates going out with me- I spend the first 15 minutes looking around. Looking for the exits. Looking for fire extinguishers. Looking for likely issues that may hinder us getting out or the ermgency services getting in to assist. looking for likely hazards that may cause an incident to occur.
Do you? Does your department?
Have a look through your response vehicles- do you have the right equipment to respond to the scenarios likely to be encountered? Do you and your members have the correct training? Evacuation of events are very different to a standard workplace that we commonly encounter.
Other considerations include the changing dynamics of us. In a recent travelling roadshow here in Australia, Jake Paulls spoke about the changing demographics and lifestyles of the people today versus a number years ago when he and others lead the world in studying crowd dynamics and building evacuations.
We're getting bigger, or being blunt- fatter.
We don't move as fast. When we do move, we sway side to side.
The problem this now creates is that emergency exits such as stairwells are not made for wider people and not for larger people swaying side to side as they exit. This in turn slows the evacuation down.
9/11 highlighted issues with firefighters trying to get up the emergency exit stair wells, carrying equipment with them as they go. Again stairwells were originally designed to evacuate people out, but out of necesseity, we've had to use them to access the incident. Again this creates burdens of over crowded exit points.
Again, as is becoming commonpalce in my rants- we need to be proactive. We need to pre-plan. We need to train for these events.
Blame can be put on the band. Blame can be put on the owner/operators of the venue. Blame can be put on the regulators.
We all have a part to play....
They have occurred and will continue to occur- will the next one be in your response area?
Here's a few links of interest-