The NFPA Technical Committee on Assembly Occupancies affirmed by a voice vote on July 8, 2003, to support proposing that sprinklers be required for all new nightclub type facilities, and require sprinklers for similar existing facilities with more than 100 occupants.
In addition to these interim changes for automatic sprinkler systems, the committee also affirmed by voice vote to support proposing requirements for wider use of crowd managers in all assembly occupancies; further restrictions on the use of festival seating; and requiring additional inspections of assembly occupancies prior to each opening of the building.
In the NFPA code development system, these changes must next be confirmed by a written ballot by the members of the Technical Committee. Concurrent to this vote, the Technical Correlating Committees for the NFPA Life Safety Code® and NFPA Building Construction and Safety Code™ will also be reviewing and voting on the changes. Upon completion of these votes, the NFPA Standards Council will be reviewing the results and will take action in the coming weeks.
"History will clearly show the importance of this meeting of the Technical Committee on Assembly Occupancies," said Art Cote, executive vice president and chief engineer. "As a follow-up to their earlier meeting held in March 2003, several weeks after the Rhode Island Station fire and the Chicago E2 crowd crush incident, once again we see the NFPA Codes and Standards system being responsive to these kinds of terrible tragedies."
A special meeting of NFPA's Technical Committee on Assembly Occupancies, convened to review safety issues in public assembly buildings, was held in Boston on March 13, 2003. A 90-minute public forum preceded the technical committee meeting. Speakers included relatives of victims´ families, fire marshals and fire chiefs from around the country, and members of several national fire and life safety organizations.
"These past few weeks have been extremely difficult," said NFPA President Jim Shannon of the tragedies in Chicago and West Warwick, RI. "It is frustrating that in each case lives were lost because there were serious code violations. If the codes had been followed, maybe these tragedies wouldn't have occurred."
While the investigations into the Rhode Island and Chicago tragedies continue and as further information becomes available, the Technical Committee on Assembly Occupancies has initiated the processing of three tentative interim amendments (TIA) that would affect the NFPA Life Safety Code® by
- eliminating the use of festival seating, also known as general admission seating, unless certain requirements are met
- requiring the use of crowd managers knowledgeable in public safety for all assembly occupancies, and
- increasing the use of automatic sprinklers in existing nightclubs.
The committee also established a task force to review the threshold at which sprinklers will be required. All TIAs are considered part of an NFPA document once fully processed and issued by the NFPA Standards Council. The council will address these TIAs at its July 2003 meeting.