The factors identified by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) determine the occurrence of potentially damaging energy exchanges due to the discrepancy in ignition time and the size of mass required to sustain energy during a fire. Polyurethane foam has a small ignition time, which makes it an appropriate source of the initial fire growth. Although wood and carpet flooring take long to ignite, they have sufficient mass to sustain a fire once the polyurethane foam reaches its peak heat release.
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The factors identified by the NIST affect the period in which an energy exchange and damage occur by creating a chain so that once a material reaches its peak heat release and can no longer sustain the fire, another material of greater mass facilitates the continuation of the fire. In this regard, although the non-fire retardant polyurethane released all its energy in about 40 seconds, wood and carpet flooring sustained the fire for a long time.
Analyses of the extent of the damages after the energy release had occurred illustrates that the lack of fire sprinklers in the nightclub’s egress aggravated the rise in carbon monoxide and hydrogen cyanide levels so that conditions in the nightclub reached extreme and fatal levels in a considerably short time. In addition, wood and carpet flooring produce large amounts of energy and temperature, which cause low oxygen levels.
The Station nightclub comprised of a soundproofing polyurethane foam and wooden structures and paneling, which provided optimal conditionals for the onset and spread of fire. Although polyurethane has a significantly low ignition energy, flames from ignited polyurethane foam have a high spread rate and generate sufficient heat to ignite wooden structures and paneling.
The lack of a fireproof covering on the foam increased the likelihood of ignition of the polyurethane when exposed to a high temperature source. The polyurethane foam covered the stage area, which was adjacent to walls and the ceiling.
In this regard, the flames from the polyurethane foam quickly spread and ignited the wooden structure, which caused the development of an oxygen-limited fire. Wood and carpet flooring provided the fuel load that sustained the fire. The combination of different building materials provided appropriate fuels to start and spread the fire. In addition, due to their different locations within the nightclub, the building material achieved optimal contribution to heat release.
Inadequate capability to suppress the fire considerably limited the time within which occupants of the nightclub could exit the facility. Although the nightclub had portable fire extinguishers, their location was inconvenient relative to the fire. In addition, the facility lacked fire sprinklers, as it was not a legal requirement for a building of its size. In this regard, the fire spread at a rapid rate causing panic and overcrowding at the fire exits.
Therefore, flight halted with some occupants opting to escape through the facility’s window. The lack of means to suppress the fire allowed temperature and combustion gases to rise quickly beyond the survivability limit. Most deaths occurred in less than 90 seconds after the fire began. Compressing the fire would have increased the survival rate by mitigating the rate of spread of the fire, and rising levels of temperature and combustions gases.
The inability of exits to handle the egress of all occupants in a short time causes people to crowd at the available exits making any evacuation attempts futile. Exits could not handle the large number of occupants since their width was less than the size recommended to handle maximum occupant capacity.
In this regard, the nightclub’s occupants had difficulties accessing exit routes, which is the main reason why a large number of survivors escaped via windows rather than the fire exits. Complex exits without a direct connection to the outside caused confusion and panic. Thus, people sought other means of exit that could lead them outside.
With a single interior door providing the easiest exit, the evacuation processed significantly delayed creating chaos. The lack of exits to handle the egress of occupants in a facility during a fire tragedy contributes directly to a high causality rate. Overcrowding in the exits aggravates the impacts of low oxygen levels and high levels of temperature and combustions gases. Furthermore, it may cause a tramped as everyone attempts to find a way out of a facility on fire.
The NIST reports on the Station nightclub fire accident provides insights on measures and polices that are crucial in minimizing the fatalities and property damage relating to a fire accident. It is not advisable to use material with low ignition energy in facilities with diverse high temperature sources since they increase the likelihood of the onset of a fire.
Buildings should have enough systems and tools for suppressing the rate of spread of flames in case of a fire outbreak. Locating sprinkler systems and portable fire extinguishers in strategic locations within a building minimizes the time taken to respond to a fire outbreak. Buildings should have sufficient fire exits that can handle the maximum occupation capacity of a facility to minimize instances of overcrowding at fire exits.