Accidents and Catastrophes: The Cocoanut Grove Nightclub Fire – Case Study Example

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The paper "Accidents and Catastrophes: The Cocoanut Grove Nightclub Fire" is a wonderful example of a case study on engineering and construction. The Cocoanut Grove Nightclub fire, Boston, which took place in Massachusetts, in 1942, happened in a small space with a relatively cramped, dark environment. The fire which killed 492 people has formed a case study in understanding the issues of fire and fire safety (Thomas, 1992). The lessons learned from the fire were again painfully applicable in the more recent Station nightclub fire which killed 100 people. The Cocoanut Grove was the most deadly nightclub fire accident in the history of the USA.

The building was a single-story building with a finished basement, which housed the Melody Lounge and a kitchen (Bryner, et. al, 2007). The club consisted of adjoining structures with well-defined sections connected by passageways and staircases. Although investigation results were inconclusive, eyewitnesses evidence suggests that the fire started shortly after 10 PM, when a busboy in tightening a loosened lit bulb using a match to illuminate the area, accidentally lit decorations in Melody Lounge on fire.

Smoke quickly spread through the area and customers fled, climbing a flight of narrow stairs to the main foyer. At least one emergency exit had been locked shut; the revolving doors at the main entrance jammed as scores of people attempted to push their way through. The problems: The code-based capacity of the club was pegged at 600 people. However, on the night when the tragedy took place; over 1000 patrons occupied the club (Cote, 2000). The fire broke out in some combustible decorations in the basement lounge; there was only one obvious exit where the fire originated.

The exit required the patrons to climb a set of stairs leading through an exit door to a hallway and eventually to the main exit which included a revolving door. The door in this hallway, which was opening in the street was locked when the fire was raging. There were other exits which were not locked but the unfortunate part was that decorations that had been put up at the venue had inadvertently concealed these exits preventing their access, identification, and use (Tubbs and Meachan, 2007). The fire spread rapidly across the underside of the building's first floor which again did not have sufficient exit capacities.

Its main exit was equipped with a door that swung against the direction of the exit travel. The push of the crow trying to escape the smoke that had infiltrated the room prevented the door from opening and many of the room’ s occupants ended up dead (Gabriel and Beningo, 2005). The important thing of note is that the fire lasted less than an hour from the point of ignition to the point of extinguishing, but ended up killing almost 500 people.

A majority portion of these deaths, incidentally, were attributable to the problems and the bottlenecks associated with exit, and the inability of the main revolving door to support the large flow of occupants (Tubbs and Meachan, 2007). The points to note therefore are as follows: The Club itself was occupied well over its capacity at the time of the fire. The interiors of the club were decorated with items, which were combustible. These included the combustible interior finishes and the artificial plants in the room of origin The other significant problem was that a multitude of exit points although present was hidden behind a slew of decorations and false walls rendering them almost useless.

These were therefore used only by those that were employees of the club. These people were well aware of the fact that these exits were present The worst part of the tragedy was that many people died because of the direction in which the revolving doors opened.

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