by LUKE BAUMGARTEN & r & & r & Face What Music? & r & & r & I was going to let the sprinklers-in-clubs issue lie for a while, but a profoundly uncritical editorial by the Spokesman-Review last week begs a response. The headline read, "Face the Music." The subhead: "Clubs need to install sprinklers, as lifesaver."
In order to warrant calling for a lifesaver, people should be in imminent danger of dying. They aren't. Since the 2003 fire in Rhode Island that inspired the Washington state law, no one in America has died in a club fire. Not one. This isn't some lucky stretch either. Reporting on legislation similar to our new law, the News & amp; Observer in Raleigh, N.C., dug into the history of fatal club blazes. It found seven. In the world. Since 1940.
The most recent was in Argentina (2004; 194 dead). The one immediately preceding the tragic Rhode Island fire was in the Philippines (150 dead). Not only are club fires rare in America, they're rare in the Third World.
Even a tiny probability is too much for the Spokesman, though, and for our legislators. Why? Because fires "destroy ... communities," cries the S-R.
Another thing that destroys communities: not having any clubs left.
The legislators and editors, looking out from atop their respective crystal palaces, realize the sprinklers are an expense, but fail to see how great an expense it is. Tens of thousands of dollars is conservative. That'll cripple almost every club in town.
Moreover, there's better action legislators could've taken that wouldn't require such a money outlay. Both the Rhode Island and Buenos Aires fires were the result of pyrotechnics. Obvious no-shit solution: Ban pyrotechnics. In the Philippines, 150 people died struggling to get out of a club packed to three times its capacity. Obvious no-shit solution: Enforce room capacities. The latter takes care of another problem, too: death by human stampede, which kills more people (or, using the S-R's parent-inflaming rhetoric, destroys more communities) than club fires ever will.
Problem solved, and at a fraction of the cost of sprinklers. Of course, these superior solutions would require governments to hire more people to enforce those capacities, which would shift the financial burden from club owners to the taxpayer, and that clearly won't do. We're all for keeping our communities un-destroyed, just so long as someone else pays for it.
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