Raymond O'Brocki, former fire marshal of the Baltimore Fire Department, was recently interviewed on National Public Radio's (NPR) "Talk of the Nation" about the recent Brazil nightclub fire and how conditions at this venue eerily matched safety shortfalls that contributed to some of the deadliest blazes in U.S. history.
"The Coconut Grove, Happy Land Social Club, The Station...and even the Iroquois Theater fire back in Chicago in 1903," he says. "There are such recurring themes over and over and over again with these fires; lack of egress, overcrowding, combustible wall coverings, a lack of a notification, a crowd that doesn't know where the exits are, exits that are locked and blocked. Codes aren't the problem--code enforcement is the problem."
What has worked in O'Brocki's jurisdiction are spot checks at venues on nights and weekends, "bolstering up forces" on days bars and clubs are notoriously crowded, and developing business allies that pinpoint irresponsible club owners. During the program, O'Brocki even fields a call from the mother of a Station nightclub victim.