Halloween party ignores alarm, alarming official | AspenTimes.com
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Halloween party ignores alarm, alarming official

Eben Harrell

A fire alarm incident at a local night club on Halloween night has Aspen’s fire marshall concerned after partygoers ignored sirens and failed to evacuate.The incident occurred between 11 p.m. and midnight at Club Chelsea, a popular dance club on the Hyman Avenue mall. Haze from a disc jockey’s smoke machine set off the fire alarm. Police soon identified the cause and determined an evacuation was not necessary. But the club, which remained packed throughout the alarm, should have emptied, according to Aspen Fire Marshall Ed Van Walraven.”It’s a huge problem in our society – people don’t pay attention to fire alarms in public places,” he said. “You shouldn’t need to be told to evacuate. That club should have been empty before the police arrived.”Fires in crowded nightclubs can be catastrophic. In February 2003, a fire in a nightclub in Rhode Island killed 100 partygoers and wounded many others. That same month, panic over smoke in a Chicago nightclub incited a stampede that crushed 21 people to death. Van Walraven said no fire codes were broken during the Halloween incident, although he said Club Chelsea staff should have made an announcement about the false alarm. Aspen’s nightclubs have stringent fire safety requirements, Van Walraven said, which are inspected regularly.But that’s of no use unless people heed fire alarms.”Especially in crowded areas, people are taking a huge risk if they ignore fire alarms,” he said. “What’s the point if people don’t respond when the alarm sounds?”Eben Harrell’s e-mail address is eharrell@aspentimes.com


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