The CNN reported that a fire razed a club in Santa MariaBrazil, in the early hours of 27th January, 2013, killing hundreds of people.

This incident calls to question some safety measures in place in most public places. In this instance, a place that is parked with over 2,000 people cannot be a club, properly so called. That kind of crowd is fit for an outdoor event, not a closed space.  What kind of exits exist in such a crowded enclosure? I dare say they were not adequate. Do the doors open out, or in(as in many places I have been to )? Why would the guards initially prevent people from escaping from the inferno? It might be because there were either no fire alarms, or they were not audible enough to have been heard by the guards at the gates. Pyrotechnics in such a place, with all that crowd? This beats me.

Safety Measures for such a place: 

1. For a space that is built to accommodate as many as 1,000 people at a time, there should be numerous Fire/Emergency exits

2. Emergency Exits should be clearly marked or identified as such using either lettering and/or the traditional picture of a running man. 

3. Emergency Lights must be installed and should be functional at all times to direct people to the exits should power supply fail. 

4. At the start of the event (and occasionally during the show), the attention of the audience must be drawn to the positions of the emergency exits.

5. Emergency doors should be integrated with the fire alarm systems to fail safe( open on their own) once the alarm goes off.

6. The doors should open outwards, and not inwards. If they open inwards, the surge of the crowd will push against it and jam it close.

7. It goes without saying that the exits should not be blocked by any objects as is often the case, especially if there has been no recorded fire incidents in recent times. The emergency exits should never be locked as a Security measure.

8. Regular fire drills are necessary to keep the people aware that fires could occur, get them to know what to do when they occur, and test the fidelity and integrity of installed fire detection and suppression systems. 

9. For a place that holds such a large number of people at a time, it will be good practice to have the fire alarms enunciate both locally, and at the nearest Fire Station for quick response.

10. Where (9) above is not possible, it is good practice to have a fire engine and an ambulance with paramedics standing by for the duration of the event.

11. As kids, we were thought not to play with fire. As adults, we do this regularly, calling it pyrotechnics. When we so decide to tempt the devil, we should at least remove inflammable materials like fabric that could easily catch fire.

12. If caught up in such a situation as the Santa Maria club inferno, look for the nearest exit, ‘bearing in mind that the nearest exit could be behind you’, as they say in aircraft safety talk. Ideally, you should have identified the exits before settling down.

13. On the ground and first floors, the nearest emergency ‘exit’ could be a window without burglar bars. Smash it and leave through it. Avoid the herd mentality that makes people all head for the door they came in through in such an emergency.

14. If the smoke is too thick, use the wall to guide you to the exit.  

15. The smoke might be lighter near the floor, but do not attempt to crawl as you might be trampled upon.  

16. A wet handkerchief held over the mouth and nose might filter out some of the smoke and prevent, or at least delay, the risk of asphyxiation which was a major cause of death in this tragic incident.

17. Once safely outside, go as far as possible from the crowd and the fire to catch your breath. Gathering at the Muster Points are not useful now since no one would take a roll call, and the possibility re-entry is very remote.
We sympathies with the government and people of Brazil, especially those who lost loved ones in this inferno. But like all such Security and Safety incidents, it should offer an opportunity to reassess the Safety (and Security) measures in place at this pace and other such public places. There might, for instance, be need to put a ceiling on how many people a club can take in at any given time. As we said at the beginning of this piece, a place that holds as many as 2.000 people cannot be a club, properly so called. Please encourage more of such information by liking us on Facebook, and following us onTwitter.