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NIST Investigates Rhode Island Nightclub Fire

2002 National Construction Safety Team (NCST) Act established NIST as lead agency to investigate building failures

New York, Mar 06, 2003

The U.S. Commerce Department's National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) has launched an investigation into the tragic fire of Feb. 20, 2003, at The Station nightclub in West Warwick, R.I. The work is being conducted under the authorities of the National Construction Safety Team (NCST) Act, which gives NIST the responsibility to dispatch teams of experts, where appropriate and practical, within 48 hours after major building disasters.

Under the NCST Act, NIST is responsible for conducting fact-finding investigations of building-related failures that result in substantial loss of life.

NIST will lead a team of public and private-sector fire and safety experts to carry out the investigation and determine the conditions in the nightclub prior to the fire. The team will investigate the materials of construction and contents; the location and conditions of doors, windows and ventilation; the installed fire protection systems; the number of occupants and their approximate locations. The team will also attempt to reconstruct the fire ignition, fire spread and survivability within the building using computer models; examine the impact on survivability of having an installed sprinkler system; and analyze the emergency evacuation and occupant responses to better understand the impediments to safe egress.

As a non-regulatory agency, NIST does not determine which building and fire safety codes, standards and practices are adopted by state and local governments. The act specifically states that NIST is not authorized to require the adoption of building codes, standards or practices.

The NIST investigation will be conducted in close cooperation with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF); the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC); the U.S. Fire Administration (USFA); ANSI member the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA); and state and local fire and law enforcement agencies.

The NIST investigation could result in recommendations for specific changes to building codes, standards and practices.

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