Expert advises public on emergency procedures

The China Post news staff

The China Post news staff — In light of the tragic fire at a Taichung bar yesterday that left nine people dead, experts weighed in, urging the public to avoid areas with narrow and limited emergency exits and to shut doors behind them to prevent the fire from spreading. According to recommendations by Taipei City Fire Department, people who find themselves in a fire should avoid smoke inhalation by covering up their nostrils with a water-soaked towel and escape by crawling on the floor with elbows and knees pressing against the floor, as the area 30 centimeters above the ground will retain an air supply for a short period of time. For areas without heavy smoke, people should find a plastic bag, fill it with air and pull it over their heads to avoid inhaling poisonous fumes, said Mo Huai-tsu, director of the department’s fire prevention initiatives. When escaping through rooms, people should check every room they exit and close the door behind them to minimize the chances of the fire spreading, Mo added. Also, as it is generally pitch-black in a fire, moving in alignment with the walls will help with maneuvering towards the right direction. As for how the ALA bar, the site of the fire, shot up in flames despite passing an inspection just last month, experts say that the bar’s owners might have made renovations after the inspection, which could include smaller, additional rooms that make escape in the event of a fire very difficult. The fire department urged the public to avoid narrow areas with limited emergency exits, citing places like nightclubs, piano bars, KTVs and other confined areas as higher in risk.

Because of the tragic circumstances and ongoing investigation, bar and nightclub patrons expressed the need for spectacles not featuring pyrotechnics like those used at the ALA bar that reportedly caused the fire to attract customers.

A nightclub “scenester” surnamed Peng said the clubs have never been the same after western influences invaded local establishments. In came a slew of shows featuring female and male dancers in their underwear, pole dancing and foam parties, which resulted in competition between areas trying to one up each other with the greatest spectacle.

Especially popular are the “fire shows” that involve lighting drinks on fire or creating little flames around beverage bottles. These gimmicks do result in increased customers, with some bars illegally operating over capacity. The over-packed rooms, however, compromise the safety of the establishment, making escape routes more congested.