|The fire at The Station nightclub in West Warwick, RI, was the subject of a 60 Minutes II segment on March 5, 2003. CBS correspondent Scott Pelley interviewed NFPA President Jim Shannon for the piece. In addition, NFPA staff provided a significant amount of information to CBS on NFPA's code development process, the organization's position on sprinklers, and the cause of the West Warwick tragedy. The following statement was issued by Mr. Shannon in response to the 60 Minutes II piece.
Day in and day out, NFPA codes are saving lives, reducing the impact of fire, and preventing tragedies like the recent night club fire from occurring. In fact, our codes have contributed to a nearly 50 percent decline in deaths from fire in buildings over the last 25 years.
When tragedies like this occur, we join the families and friends of the victims as well as all Americans in mourning the loss of life. But, we also spend a great deal of time and energy learning from these events. One of the most frustrating things about the Rhode Island nightclub fire is that this tragedy could have been prevented. If NFPA codes had been followed, there would have been no fire. The highly flammable exposed foam insulation and pyrotechnics were in violation of the code. This should never have happened.
We also must look at the issue of sprinklers. NFPA has long been an advocate for the use of sprinklers. Our codes require them for many structures. The experts who sit on NFPA code writing committees provided a full set of fire safety provisions that, if followed, would have protected occupants in these types of facilities. In this case, however, the codes were violated. We are evaluating what can be done to protect lives even if certain codes have been ignored. We have called for an immediate meeting of our public assembly occupancy committee to examine all the issues and information related to this tragedy and to determine whether our codes should be updated.
Safety codes protect each and every one of us every day. Unfortunately, they can't help if they are ignored. Safety must start with good codes, like those developed by the 7,000 experts who come together to write the NFPA codes. Enforcement of these codes is equally important, and fire and safety officials from across the country are on the front line with this challenge every day. Responsible building owners and operators also have an important role in adhering to the codes. Tragically, in the case of the Rhode Island fire, the codes were ignored.