Friday, December 11, 2015

Burn Survivor from The Station Nightclub fire speaks-out for the NFPA

On February 20th, 2003, a fire broke out in a nightclub that killed 100 people in just minutes.  Rob Feeney was there, and was one of the lucky ones that got out before the fire and smoke became to intense to survive.  Join Rob to read more about his experience at the NFPA's Fire Sprinkler Initiative blog.

For other posts about nightclub fires use the Theatre Safety Blog's search for keyword 'Station Nightclub'.

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Nightclub Fire in Romania Kills 27, Injures 170

2015-10-31 - Bucharest, Romania - An late night fire in a basement nightclub claimed 39 lives, injured over 190, and was completely predictable and preventable.  A heavy metal band Goodbye to Gravity gave a free Halloween concert at the Colectiv nightclub just south east of the city center, and during the show some fireworks (pyrotechnics) were set-off which ignited a foam covered column that was adjacent to the stage.  Witnesses said the fire rapidly spread across the foam and pine wood covered ceiling causing a panic in the crowd.

Ironically, the band had just played 'This is the Day We Die' from their new CD "Mantras of War", and then as they started into the next song the fire started.  Delia Tugui, a Spanish teacher at the American International School of Bucharest who was at the concert with her husband and son, said club goers were surprised by how fast the fire spread and panicked.
Moments before the fire
"The lead singer made a quick joke: 'This wasn't part of the program.'  The next second, he realized it wasn't a joke and asked for a fire extinguisher," she wrote on her Facebook page.  "In 30 seconds . . . the fire spread all over the ceiling.  People rushed to the entrance but it was too narrow, and people panicked.  Behind me people stampeded, climbing over each other, to try and get out."
The fireworks spray towards the foam covered column
"I was two meters from the door and I barely got out," she told The Associated Press.  "People started pushing each other, stamping on each other, it was incredibly quick."
Patrons still smiling unaware of the hell that was about to break loose
"Friends were looking for each other under the pile of people," she said. "It was a nightmare."

She said she knew some would not escape.

"I realized that those on the other side of the bar would not get out alive."

Once she got outside there was a blast and her hair caught fire, Tugui said.

"I tried to put it out with my hands and got burned.  People behind me were burned from head to toe."

A  3D computer generated graphic of the nightclub fire can be seen here.

The band’s lead singer, Alex Pascu, was hospitalized and later died.  Antena 3 TV said bass guitarist Alex Telea was reported missing by his parents, who have been searching for him.  he is also confirmed dead.

Florentina Dinca, 38, who lives opposite the nightclub, told The Associated Press there was chaos as emergency workers tried to aid the badly burned clubgoers.

"They were very frightened, they screamed, ambulances didn't know what to do," she said.  "Girls had their hair burned, they had burns on their faces.  It was terror."

“There was a stampede of people running out of the club,” a man who escaped without shoes told Reuters.

A young woman who sustained minor injuries described the club bursting into flames.  “In five seconds the whole ceiling was all on fire. In the next three we rushed to a single door,” she told television station Antena 3.

The nightclub had only one entrance / exit and it was just 80cm wide (31 1/2").  Paul Angelescu, a reporter with ProTV, said the mayor told him the venue had all the necessary permits to operate as a club, however, they did not have permits for any pyrotechnic use.  Further investigation will determine if the facility was indeed compliant with current local building codes.

The club was said to have 300-400 in attendance that night, and some were minors. It was only permitted for 80 occupants.  In Romania it is permissible for adults to bring their children into nightclubs, and occasionally unaccompanied minors enter the clubs because the monitoring of age is very lax.

The nightclub is one of dozens of clubs and bars that have sprung up in the Romanian capital in recent years, a lively city of 3 million renowned for its nightlife and long hours.

Shooting candles and indoor fireworks are common in bars and restaurants in Romania and enforcement of fire regulations is poor.

Twelve hospitals were filled with burn and smoke inhalation victims, and hundreds lined-up outside to donate blood.  The death toll is expected to rise.

Update:  Thousands of protesters in Romania have been gathered in Bucharest expressing anger towards the government for the lax building code enforcement that led to this tragedy.  Prime Minister Victor Ponta and his Cabinet resigned Wednesday, November 4 in response to public demands for accountability.

If this story seems all-to-familiar, numerous nightclub fires have been initiated by the illegal use of pyrotechnics which ignite foam materials used for sound absorption.  These include The Station nightclub fire in 2003 at West Warwick, Rhode Island, which killed 100 people; and and the Kiss nightclub fire in Santa Maria, Brazil, which killed 242 people.

More coverage can be found at:

This blog entry updated 2015-11-07-10:15PM

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Helmets - Protecting your noggin at a fraction of the price of brain surgery

Typical 4-point suspension
ANSI type I protection
Traditional hard-hats used by construction workers aren't much more than a skid lid to keep your hair on your scalp.  That isn't to say it isn't a good thing, especially for us 'folically challenged' folks.  However, when you flip one of these over and study the inside you suddenly realize that the shock absorption mechanism is anything more than a few nylon ribbons that are supposed to 'predictably' fail and take some of the wham! out of the slam!-bam! of a falling object.

There is no joy in scraping your skull along the bottom of a low-lying air duct, sprinkler pipe, or cross-bracing steel.  The pain is excruciating, and dripping blood from the catwalk is poor manners.

A few years ago, well actually ALOT of years ago, helmet manufacturers realized that adding a layer of crushable foam (typically styrofoam) to the inside of a helmet would increase the energy dissipation significantly.  We first saw this technology applied to motorcycle and auto racing helmets, and then to bicycle helmets.  It eventually made its way into rock climbing helmets, and from there into the world of construction helmets.
KASK Super Plasma Helmet interior view - ANSI type II protection.
Note the two layers of padding:  both Styrofoam and a fabric covered foam cushion.

Conventional hard hat with 4-point chin strap
Although you can buy accessory chin straps for cheap hard-hats, the chin straps don't always stay attached, they are difficult to find and buy, and they frequently cost more than the hard-hat itself.  In the theatre and show production industry we seem to spend a lot of time either bent over (hold the jokes please . . .) or working at height.  Both of these work situations demand that your PPE remain secured to your person.  You don't want you hard-hat falling into the scenery that you are painting, and you don't want it to fall from the truss or catwalk you are working upon.  Either way, when your hard-hat departs your head you are exposing yourself to injury AND you may be exposing the inattentive and unwilling participant below you to the full impact of your helmet on their head.  Hopefully, they are wearing some head protection, too!

Single chin strap accessory
So, if you drop you helmet to the stage floor below, will it damage it?  Yes, it will.  The next stop for that hard-hat is the dumpster.  You probably can't see the micro-fractures that impact set-up in the plastic, but I'd never trust the helmet to protect my brains again.  So, for a $5 big-box ANSI type I hard-hat, this is no big deal, but when you start wearing a $85-$150 ANSI type II hardhat, then protecting your investment (both your PPE and your brains) is a bit more of a concern.
KASK Super Plasma - ANSI type II protection

Myth:  Rock climbing helmets aren't OSHA compliant.  Any helmet that meets the ANSI/ISEA Z89.1-2009 or 2014 standard is acceptable.  It may not look like Bubba's typical construction site hard-hat, but if it meets the standard and is labelled as such, then it's legal.

So, what can yo do to keep a cool head and be stylin' on truss?  Get one of those really protective and 'I'm a professional' looking ANSI type II helmets and wear it!  The two most popular climbing helmets are the Petzl Verex Best and the KASK Super Plasma.  Bright colors are recommended.  If you need to black it out for a show (common for truss follow spotlight operators), just have your costume department sew-up a black spandex cover for it.

Bottom line:  Unless your want your brains to become Zombie food, protect them.  No replacement parts are currently available.

There is no shame in protecting your brain!

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Staging Truss System Collapse Kills One, Injures 13

Nanning, China 2015-10-29 - China News reports that during the construction of the stage for an upcoming Jolin Tsai concert the ground supported stage truss system collapsed.  On worker was killed, and 13 other were injured.  On of the injured is in serious condition, while the others only suffered minor injuries.

Truss System Before the Collapse
The incident occurred around 5PM local time at the Guangxi Sports Center Arena.

After the collapse workers assess damage.
Deconstructing a tangled web of steel, aluminum, and stretched cables is a dangerous endeavor - stress in materials can create booby-traps due to spring loading and fractures in components that have not yet fully failed.  Hopefully, the workers doing this are planning their work carefully.

Also note that only three of the workers in the pictures are wearing hardhats.  It is unclear, but likely, that safety shoes are not worn in this construction environment.  Few workers appear to be wearing bright colored clothes, which makes it more difficult to spot staff and avoid collisions.  All of these factors can contribute to further injuries.

This is particularly relevant as this Blogger is scheduled to address the China Stage Design Exhibition in Beijing on November 26th-29th to discuss the development of an Entertainment Safety Initiative similar to the US lead Event Safety Guide developed by the Event Safety Alliance.

Update:  Two more pictures:


Yet another way to learn about Theatre Safety

The Theatrefolk Podcast offers-up a thoughtful piece on Theatre Safety - come and tune-in as Lindsay Price interviews Kristy Ross-Clausen about rigging, emergency egress routes, hand and foot PPE, and flame-proofing.

Theatre Safety Podcast

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Ten Things Actors Need To Know About Safety

The Educational Theatre Association (EdTA) serves the High School and College level theatre teachers and students through two publications Dramatics and Teaching Theatre
The Fall 2015 issue of Teaching Theatre features two articles about performer safety that are good resources for your library.  Share them with your staff and students.  The magazine can be found on the EdTA web site ( and a direct link to the PDF download is here.  If you are not a member of EdTA, consider joining to support this organizations great resources.  They also have a Community Open Forum section where members can ask questions share ideas.

Teaching Theatre Fall 2015 Cover

Friday, October 2, 2015

Just like sticking your finger in a light socket - NOT Smart

Fluke, manufacturers of electrical test equipment, has posted a Safety Checklist entitled 10 dumb things smart people do when testing electricity.  This sage advice can save your pork butt from becoming bacon, so download it here: dumb things smart people do when testing electricity.PDF

While you are visiting the Fluke web site, check out their Fluke 1AC-II non-contact voltage detector.  This is the MUST HAVE item in any tool box, as you can place the tip near any stage equipment like microphones, electric guitars, stage lights, etc. and see if maybe the power feed is crossed-up and about to kill some one.  Consider it a pre-emptive strike against death.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Strippers can take you breath away - permanently

Methylene chloride, also called dichloromethane, is the solvent common in many paint strippers.  The widely available products with labels that warn of cancer risks but do not make clear the possibility of rapid death. In areas where the fumes can concentrate, workers and consumers risk asphyxiation or a heart attack while taking care of seemingly routine tasks. has researched the many deaths that have occurred while using these products and the report can be found here:  It's a lengthy read, but it could save your life.

In the fine print of most labels they manufacturers allude to the precautions necessary when using their products, but without a magnifying glass and good lighting, the labels are often difficult to read and easily ignored.  While these products can be bought at home-improvement and general retail stores across the U.S., the specialty respirators and polyvinyl-alcohol gloves needed to handle them safely are not usually available from those same retailers.  OSHA and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health say only a full-face respirator with a separate air supply, or exhaust ventilation to remove the fumes, will provide sufficient protection.

Setting aside longer-term health concerns, such as cancer, the danger posed by methylene chloride is its one-two punch when fumes accumulate. Because it turns into carbon monoxide in the body, it can starve the heart of oxygen and prompt a heart attack. The chemical also acts as an anesthetic at high doses, so its victims slump over, no longer breathing, because the respiratory centers of their brains switch off.


Thursday, September 24, 2015

OSHA Safety Violations upheld in death of camerawoman Sarah Jones

2015-10-15 - Sarah Jones, was a 27-year-old camera assistant when she was killed while trying to escape an oncoming freight train during the filming of a scene on February 20, 2014, for the movie “Midnight Rider,” a biopic based on the life of musician Gregg Allman. Eight other workers were injured.

OSHA cited Film Allman LLC in August 2014 for one willful and one serious safety violation for exposing employees to struck-by and fall hazards.

Judge Sharon D. Calhoun of the Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission (OSHRC) upheld those citations on September 15.

“Bad management decisions have real and lasting consequences, and when those decisions involve safety, the consequences can be tragic,” said Kurt Petermeyer, OSHA’s regional administrator for the southeast. “The death of Sarah Jones is particularly disheartening because it was entirely preventable.”

Petermeyer went on to say that Film Allman’s management “blatantly disregarded their obligation to ensure the safety of their crew and cast. They were fully aware that the railroad tracks were live, and that they did not have permission to film there. “

He added that while the OSHRC’s decision cannot correct or reverse the events of February 20, 2014, “we hope that it will serve as a reminder to the film industry that safety has an important, necessary role on every set and in every workplace.”

People gather in Los Angeles at the International Cinematographers Guild national offices on March 7, 2014
during a candlelight walk and memorial for Sarah Jones.

The backstory about this tragic incident can be found at:

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

LDI 2015 Talks about Safety in the Entertainment Industry

Nancy Malette, senior manager, Occupational Health and Safety, for Cirque du Soleil will lead a panel discussion with other industry experts at LDI.  The session is titled 'Creating a Safety Culture in Entertainment' will be Saturday, Octorber 24, 11:00AM to 12:30PM at the Las Vegas Convention Center room N256.  Go to for more information and registration for session number PT06.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Fire Door Safety Week - Jim Morrison would be proud

Lori Greene, blogger at IDigHardware! is a great resource for all things relating to fire doors, and her most recent post at LinkedIn is no exception.  Check it out: (or if you are not a LinkedIn member, go to:  Some of Lorrie's past posts can also be found at The Building Code Forum
 Get them Inspected, Detected, and if necessary, Rejected

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

They left Zombies off the list, but other than that - its all good advice.

September is National Preparedness Month.  Visit the FEMA web site at

There is really very little difference between preparing for Zombies and Floods, Fires, and Storms
(Well, except that Kill the Zombie thing).

Batteries, Water, Food, First Aid, PPE, and a Communications Plan

With the proper Safety Planning, you may never need these things.

This is the goal:  Prevent Accidents and Injuries BEFORE THEY HAPPEN.

Check yourself.

Don't expect others to do it for you.  You are your best first defense against stupid - or worse.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Summer Storm Collapses Circus Tent Killing Two

Lancaster, New Hampshire 2015-08-03, 5:46PM - A summer storm struck a circus tent about 15 minutes into the performance.  Witnesses say that the tent lifted-up allowing the metal support poles to fall over onto the audience.  The National Weather Service had issued a severe thunderstorm warning just 20 minutes before the tent collapse.  The show was on-going when the storm hit the site bringing one inch hail, 60 mile per hour winds, and lightning.

The circus company, Walker International Events of Sarasota, Florida, made no effort to notify anyone of the pending conditions, stop the show, or evacuate the tent.  About 100 people were in the tent when it collapsed.

Visiting from Concord, Vermont, 41 year old Robert Young and his 6 year old daughter Annabell were killed when a tent support pole landed on them.  Another 32 people have also been treated for injuries.

State Fire Marshal Bill Degnan said "The circus did not have a place of assembly permit, and that's one of the things that we're looking into."  Degnan also said that it's unknown why the show continued during a severe thunderstorm warning.  He added that it was the responsibility of the circus organizer to monitor weather conditions.

Lancaster is a small town in the northern part of the state near the White Mountains National Forest.

Foaming at the mouth? Well, that's better than on the stage.

Foam materials are used in many different ways on the stage, and many times no forethought is given to the legality, safety, or potential consequences that accompany these choices.  Many foam materials are very combustible, and when they do ignite, they produce an enormous amount of black toxic smoke.  This is smoke so thick that it can kill you in seconds.  Need proof of this threat?  Here are three prime examples of recent fires that were all largely foam fire related:
At left is the pool deck of the Cosmopolitan Hotel in Las Vegas, Nevada.  You can see the fake palm trees that are sculpted from foam burning wildly.  NOTE THE AMOUNT OF BLACK SMOKE BEING PRODUCED.  If this was inside a theatre it would completely fill the stage house and audience chamber.

In each case, the primary source of fuel for the fire was foam based products, and in each case the smoke they produced was thick and deadly.  All too common is the use of foam insulation board like "Foamular" (see below) and "Rmax R-Matte".  This blogger sees it used for props and set walls with no attempt to enclose it or treat it with any fire retardant.  What are these people thinking!?

Also be aware that the NFPA 101 Life Safety Code specifically addresses foam materials uses in scenery and props in Article Flame Retirement Requirements.  If you work in a theatre you should have a copy of this book.  It is fairly inexpensive and full of relevant information for theatre operations - particularly Chapter 13, but other Chapters and Annexes are very important, too.

Fireworks Storage Building Explodes and Kills Assistant Stage Manager

Amarillo, Texas - 2015-07-31, 5:54PM - 21 year old Peyton Trueblood was killed Friday evening when a fireworks storage building exploded and sent flaming debris over 200 yards from the blast site.  Peyton worked in the Palo Duro Canyon park amphitheatre where the musical "Texas" is presented.  Reports say she was taking inventory between two storage building when the explosion occurred.  Peyton was from Tuscaloosa, Alabama.

Peyton Trueblood (on left) (from facebook)
The Texas State Fire Marshal is investigating to find the cause of the incident.  Kris Miller, executive director of the Texas Panhandle Heritage Foundation, which produces the show, said that about 1,600 rounds of fireworks — enough to last until the end of the show’s season on August 15th, plus rounds stored for homecoming at West Texas A&M University — went up in the explosion.

Miller added “She had talked about what an honor it was to work with the fireworks and being certified to do that.  And when I spoke to her mother last night, she said something about how Peyton felt proud about that.”

Palo Duro Canyon Park Superintendent Shannon Blalock says the park has resumed normal operations following yesterday's tragic accident.  2015 marked the 50th season for the popular musical located about 25 miles south of Amarillo.  Information about the show can be found at:

Park officials say they will continue to working with the State Fire Marshal and the Randall County Sheriffs Office as the investigation continues.

(Updated details 2015-08-05)
Follow-up:  OSHA issues fines:

Storms sweep through midwest, one event attendee killed when tent collapses

Wood Dale, Illinois - Sunday, August 2, 2015, about 2:40PM - Like many summer storms, this one popped-up quick, dumped rain and hail, and blew hard.  Unfortunately, the city of Wood Dale didn't learn any lessons from the numerous storm-related disasters over the past few years, and completely failed to evacuate the Prairie Fest site before the weather hit.  There was a Junior High School immediately adjacent to the event site that could have been used as a durable shelter.  A tent structure on the site was filled with about 100 festival goers seeking cover from the onslaught of hail, and then the wind up-ended the tent tearing it from it's anchors.  One of the main tent support poles fell and struck 35 year old Steven Nincic in the head and killed him.  He is survived by his wife of three years and two daughters.

Other events in the region had watched the weather front more closely and had evacuation plans prepared and in effect.  Winds of up to 60mph were reported in the area.  The festival site is very close to Chicago's O'Hare International Airport, so presumably excellent weather radar feeds were available for monitoring had the city elected to do so.  The city claims to have had an emergency plan, but no sign of it being implemented was visible.

First Responders had to cut through the tent to get to people trapped under the wreckage.  The remainder of the festival was cancelled after the weather passed, as police and ambulances came to treat the numerous injuries.

Lawyers for the family of Steven Nincic are filing an injunction to keep the tent site intact until a complete investigation can be completed, but many vendors and carnival ride owners have already packed-up and left.  An attorney representing the family released a statement contending that “the true tragedy” is that incidents such as the tent upheaval “are not only potentially predictable,” but “preventable with prudent caution and control of events in the face of available meteorological information.”  Attorney Louis C. Cairo said the weather and “the propriety of the tent materials and its installation” will be “litigated extensively.”

The city said that the tent was supplied by a vendor, and it had been inspected for electrical compliance, but not structural integrity.  This blogger finds this information to be more of a smoke screen to deflect attention away from the lack of weather monitoring and assigning someone the authority to close-down the event and evacuate people to hard shelters.  A safety plan, when implemented, reduces the need to rely on an emergency plan.  Safety plans address issues before they get to the point of being an emergency.

Monday, August 3, 2015

IATSE Launches Safety Hotline

The International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE) recently launched its safety hotline so members can report hazards on the job.

When an IATSE member calls the toll free number 844-IA AWARE, (844-422-9273), the caller can either leave a message for or talk to a safety representative who will help handle the issue. Sometimes the safety representative will contact the IATSE Local’s representative and assist them with the issue, or call the employer directly.

Because IATSE members commonly work for many different employers, the system of employers reporting hazards to OSHA sometimes breaks down. The IATSE Safety Hotline is a safety net.

The IATSE Safety Hotline is not intended to take the place of an employer’s hazard reporting plan or to relieve the employer from their responsibility to keep jobs safe.

In The Official Bulletin, the IATSE monthly newsletter, Kent Jorgensen, IATSE's Chairman of the Safety Committee, provides more details on the safety hotline on page 42.  This also includes guidelines for members to follow.  See:

Monday, May 18, 2015

It’s a great time to review electrical safety practices.  You know, things like unplugging a lighting instrument BEFORE you try to change the lamp . . .
The Electrical Safety Foundation International (ESFI) is dedicated exclusively to promoting electrical safety in the home, school, and workplace, and is the proud sponsor of National Electrical Safety Month each May.
In celebration of Electrical Safety Month 2015, ESFI announced the launch of the second edition of its National Electrical Safety Month publication, Electrical Safety Illustrated.
In this magazine ESFI addresses timely electrical safety issues to equip the public with the knowledge to better protect their home, family and communities from electrical hazards.

Click here to read the Electrical Safety Illustrated May 2015 magazine.
Click here to visit the ESFI Home Electrical Safety page for more resources and information