Fire prevention vs over-regulation  

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Predictably, the fire at the Colectiv nightclub in Bucharest has resulted in calls for moar regulation! and a search for the culprits. Interior Minister Oprea can breathe now that the media is no longer focusing on his killing of a policeman through unnecessary, elitist motorcades. Let me explain why the requests for more regulation are misguided.

colectiv-ceiling-fireWe now have a more permanent news video clip from euronews.

Here’s a summary of the aftermath from Reuters.

Romania's government declared a three-day national mourning on Saturday, after an overnight fire in a Bucharest nightclub killed 27 people and injured 184 during a rock concert that featured fireworks used indoors.

In one of the capital's worst disasters in decades, up to 500 people, mostly young adults, stampeded for the only available exit as the club in the basement of a Communist-era sport-shoe factory filled with smoke.

Officials and witnesses said fireworks were used inside the club, while Colectiv Club's Facebook page advertised pyrotechnic effects at the show.

Deputy Interior Minister Raed Arafat said 17 of the 27 dead had yet to be identified and 146 people remained in hospital. He said no fire permit was requested by the club nor granted to them by the Bucharest firefighting department.

"Unfortunately, the death toll may change taking into account the severity of their injuries," Arafat said after an emergency meeting early on Saturday.

President Klaus Iohannis toured Bucharest hospitals to visit the victims and also lit a candle at the club, while some 600 people queued to donate blood.

"I've got strong clues the law was broken in this case. I'm revolted that such a tragedy happens in downtown of the capital and innocent youngsters are perished," Iohannis said.

A pillar covered with foam panels and the club's ceiling went up in flames, followed by an explosion and heavy smoke, the witnesses said. Many people admitted to 12 hospitals had suffered burn, smoke inhalation injuries or were trampled.

TV footage showed police officers and paramedics trying to resuscitate young people lying on the pavement while sirens wailed with more ambulances deployed to the scene.

Prime Minister Victor Ponta, just back from an official visit to Mexico, ordered checks on clubs across the country to see whether safety and firefighting norms are being observed. (..)

Deputy Prime Minister Gabriel Oprea said a criminal investigation into the causes of the incident was already under way at the General Prosecutor's office on suspicion of murder and destruction crimes, but no accusations were yet pressed.

Any open fire displays and fireworks in Romania require special authorisation if used in a public indoor place. Such permits may be granted if the venue is assessed to be safe and equipped with extinguishers, and the fire department deploys several firefighters to the place.

See also Wikipedia and TGM, linked below.

As a former landlord, I’ve never had to endure a “fire inspection”. Nonetheless, I went over and beyond any potential fire regulation by keeping a fire extinguisher on each level of the house, as well as fire alarms and CO alarms, powered and with battery backup. In the furnace room I even had a multi-gas detector, just in case. I would evict tenants who messed with the alarms by removing their power source (either because they were smoking or cooking) and that’s because I had so many problems, I just did not want to have to worry about fire. I would also check the fire extinguisher pressure and the detectors yearly and replace them when needed.

Since then, I witnessed a fire inspection for a commercial establishment, and it was brutal. The inspector seemed impolite and generally an a##hole, going well beyond what was required by the Code, while the proprietor responded with what seemingly was fear. Another proprietor told me at one point that the normal course of action is to hire a private inspector before the government one, at a cost of about $500 for a several stories place, follow their instructions, then go through the government inspection breezily. It seems quite probable that the “private inspectors” make it easier not just by giving instructions, but also by keeping a close relationship with the public inspectors, in what is often called a “public-private partnership”, the nicer way of selling regulatory capture.

So far, the above may very well be happening in Europe and / or Romania as well. What is generally different in North America is the widespread use of fire retardant, which is mandated and used to a far greater extent than in Europe. This goes back to the efforts to regulate and ban cigarette smoking. The nicotine giants had intense PR and lobbying efforts designed to blame anything but cigarettes for nicotine addiction and abuse. When the government tried to ban smoking indoors on account of increased risk of fire, they responded that most household products catch fire way too easily (which is sort of true) and regulatory efforts should be going in that direction. Legislators and governments, seemingly persuaded by the PR campaigns and “donations”, mandated and enforced the use of flame retardants (“ignifug” or “substante ignifuge” in Romanian) even though there was no evidence of their efficacy and furthermore there were questions about their impact on people’s health.

LE: The studies quoted below clearly show evidence of negative impact on people's health.

Fast forward to studies done in the past few years, finding significant contamination with PBDEs and BFRs among virtually the entire North American population, vs much lower or non-existent levels in Europe, and that’s bad, because it is toxic, especially for babies, affecting their development. Studies also show that flame retardants do nothing or not enough to prevent fires.

But don’t take my word for it. Watch this video on dust bunnies or sofas and / or read any of the following articles.

  1. Mercola. 2012-12-27.
  2. NRDC.
  3. GHC. 2014-09-24.
  4. NACHI.
  5. CBC. 2012-11-28.
  6. YaleU. 2011-09-29.
  7. PBS. 2014-01-01.
  8. Charlotte. 2014-09-21.
  9. WP. 2013.04.15

So how should such tragedies be prevented? Resist the temptation to ask for more regulations – existing regulations are good enough as long as they are applied, the government cannot protect you, and efforts to do so generally backfire with worse side-effects.

According to Reuters above, a fire permit should have been requested but was not. This should be sufficient to convict the organizers of crime. If it is not sufficient, only then should laws be changed. Regulators and people should also be more pro-active. A fire inspection should result in a permit that should be displayed on the premises. If you patronize an establishment without such a permit displayed, you should be contacting the fire department, property standards or the consumer protection office and file a complaint, whether the event is free (as this one) or not.

And remember De Niro’s words in Ronin (a quote also heard in many other movies and written in other novels):

I never walk into a place I don't know how to walk out of.

This strategy served him well.

Sources / More info: reuters, inbo-fire, Wikipedia, TGM 

Thank you for reading (mulţam fain pentru cetire)! Publicat Saturday, October 31, 2015 . Similar articles under the following categories (poţi găsi articole similare sub următoarele categorii): (Subscribe), (Subscribe) . Dacă ţi-a plăcut articolul, PinIt-uieste-l, ReddIt-eaza-l, stumble-uieste-l altora, trimite-l pe WhatsApp yMess şi consideră abonarea la fluxul RSS sau prin email. Ma poti de asemenea gasi pe Google. Trackback poateputea fi trimis prin URL-ul de sub Comentarii.
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