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State Fire Marshal Urges Caution, Not Panic, in Crowd

2/21/2003

CONTACT: Nina Bottcher
(850) 413-2842

TALLAHASSEE – Following two separate nightclub disasters in Illinois and Rhode Island in the past week that killed at least 106 people, Florida's Chief Financial Officer Tom Gallagher, who also serves as State Fire Marshal, is urging Floridians to be mindful that caution is better than panic in a crowd.

"These events do serve as a reminder that disaster can strike anywhere and at any time," Gallagher said. "Being prepared to respond is the best defense."

In Florida, local government officials are responsible for enforcing state fire codes regarding exits and capacity. There have been no such fatal incidents involving large crowds reported in Florida.

The fatal incidents in the past week involved very different causes. Monday in Chicago, it is reported a stampede, which left 21 dead, was started by the release of a substance believed to have been pepper spray, leaving 21 dead. On Thursday in West Warwick, R.I., it is reported that pyrotechnics used during a band performance set the ceiling on fire. Reports are that at least 85 are dead following that incident.

The State Fire Marshal's Office suggests that the following should be kept in mind when in a large gathering:


· Upon entering any facility with a large group, identify the nearest exits as soon as possible.


· It is human nature that when people are being entertained, they are not likely to focus on any possible danger. Stay alert to what is going on around you.


· Florida's fire prevention code, Chapter 4A-60, of Florida Administrative Code, requires a minimum of two exits from all places of assembly. The number of exits and the width of the exits increase as the occupant load of the building increase. If you suspect a violation, report it to local authorities.

The State Fire Marshal's Office, within the Department of Financial Services, includes the Bureau of Fire Prevention, the Bureau of Fire and Arson Investigations, and the Bureau of Fire Standards and Training. Visit the State Fire Marshal's web pages at www.fldfs.com for more fire safety tips.