Sunday, December 06, 2009

No, we don't have campfires indoors

There was a horrible fire in a nightclub in Perm. 112 people are dead, out of about 250 people present; considering the injuries of the survivors, the death toll is likely to rise.

There is a lot of soul-searching in the Russian forums right now. Russians are corrupt, and not particularly safety-minded, and well aware of it, but they are not sure what to do about it: they are not all corrupt, of course, not even the majority, but it only takes a few percent of the population to make it possible for everyone who wants to bribe a fire safety inspector to find a bribable one. A few more percent, and the honest people stop choosing the professions where a lot of people take bribes. One can resist giving bribes, but in many cases it's not an option.

I kind of wish I knew how much the fire inspectors got in this case. To begin with, the club was on the first floor of an apartment building. Its ceiling was quite low (2.5 meters or so) and made of straw and dry twigs. Behind the twigs they had a highly flammable sort of polystyrene and lots of electrical wiring. Just the place for the indoor fireworks. The fireworks turned out to be bigger and hotter than specified, the place had only one emergency exit, and it was unmarked, and all the light worked from the wiring in the ceiling, so as soon at it caught fire the lights went out. And of course there were no sprinklers or fire alarm.

Well, they promised that the evening would be unforgettable, and it sure was. :(

But enough of the Russian fire safety enforcement. Shit happens everywhere. 6 years ago there was a very similar fire in Rhode Island. There the fire inspectors were not bribed but happened to overlook the absence of sprinklers anyway. The company that delivered the insulation materials forgot to mention they were flammable, and the emergency exits were all there, but apparently during such situations people tend to run back where they came from. The survival percentage was much higher than in Perm, of course, but still, 100 people died.

What I really want to know is: considering that almost all the big nightclub fires around the world lately come from the indoor use of fireworks, what exactly possesses people to continue using them? How many people really want to see fireworks during an indoor show? Those events have sufficiently bad air as it is. The whole thing makes me feel like explaining to people "no, we don't have campfires indoors".

It just seems like such a fucking bad idea.

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