On February 20, 2003, 100 club-goers died needlessly when a fire broke out in The Station nightclub in Rhode Island. Pyrotechnics from the band on stage ignited nearby walls and ceilings and the fire spread rapidly. Immediately, more than two-thirds of the 400-plus individuals in attendance turned and started for the main entrance. But the intensity of the flames and smoke caused the crowd to panic and surge forward, everyone pushing for the front door. Individuals fell, causing others to fall and, in less than 90 seconds, the front door was hopelessly blocked.
One individual in the crowd recorded the disaster on his video camera; the link to the video is below. We don't offer this to be gruesome, but to show you how quickly and dramatically a fire can overwhelm a room and everyone in it. Please note: This video is disturbing and powerful.
In the aftermath of The Station nightclub fire, several investigations and studies were launched. The following link will take you to a computer simulation of the event. Note how short the time line is from when the fire started to when it engulfed the facility.
Here's the take away: When a fire breaks out in a crowded place, people almost always head for the front door. It's the one exit they know; the one exit everyone knows. That's why, when you enter a public place or a building that you're not familiar with, give yourself options. Take a second to notice your surroundings. Make a mental note where the Exits are placed and consider where you would go in the event of a fire. Remember, the best way out may not be the way in.