By Jon Campisi, who has been a writer and editor for a number of media outlets in the Philadelphia area.
While the incident took place a continent away, the Brazilian nightclub fire that claimed 235 lives late last month no doubt resonated with Americans -- and it could lead to underwriters taking a closer look at insuring entertainment venues.
The Brazilian tragedy is being blamed on pyrotechnics set off by a rock band in the confined, indoor club. The incident is eerily similar to a Rhode Island fire 10 years ago where 100 people perished at a rock-and-roll venue called The Station.
For the Brazilian nightclub, things appeared doomed from the start. Media outlets reported that the club, called Kiss, didn't have working smoke alarms, contained no fire escape and had no sprinklers.
In the wake of the incident, risk managers are thinking long and hard about what can be done to safeguard nightclubs and concert venues against similar incidents in the future. Meanwhile, Robert Murphy, the global entertainment and events practice leader for Marsh, said that underwriters are likely to look more closely at entertainment venue risks and emergency evacuation plans. However, he doesn't foresee insurance rates increasing in the United States.
For business owners, the tragedy offers a strong reminder about ensuring that their emergency plans are viable and useful.
"Most of the lessons are known, [incidents like these are] just a reminder," Murphy said.
While both the Brazilian and Rhode Island entertainment venue fires involved the use of indoor pyrotechnics, Murphy is not advocating "outlawing" pyrotechnics entirely. Instead, he said, entertainment venues need to have carefully thought-out procedures about when and how to use them.
Murphy also cautioned against focusing strictly on the illegal use of fireworks during indoor events.
The unforeseen is bound to occur at both indoor and outdoor concerts, whether it's someone bringing weapons into a nightclub or natural events such as the gust of wind that took down an outdoor stage at the Indiana State Fair in 2011.
Concert risks also must focus on security and crowd control. Risk managers must figure out the steps that have to be taken to evacuate a venue, get an accounting for who was in attendance and work closely with the authorities to handle a situation.
"When something happens, the early response is absolutely the most important period of time," Murphy said.
Another part of the process should be testing the facility's safety and evacuation plan.
"If you just have a plan and haven't done anything with it," Murphy said, "you give a false sense of security to people."
February 5, 2013
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