Bar tragedies raise awareness

Tragedy struck two weeks ago in bars in Chicago and Rhode Island, but what safety precautions are being made in Bowling Green?

Both fire officials and bar owners in town said that situations like the ones in Chicago, where 21 people were crushed to death in a stampede, and in Rhode Island where 97 people were killed in a fire can be avoided. The number one safety precaution is the responsibility of the customer to be aware of all exits in an establishment said Joe Burns, fire chief of the Bowling Green Fire Division.

“People are used to going through fire exits they entered through,” Burns said. “They need to look for other exits.”

Local bars are all in safe conditions said Burns. He said the fire division takes weekly trips to the bars in town to make sure all safety codes are being obeyed and the establishments are not overcrowded.

“We have been doing weekly checks for 20 years,” Burns said. “If there is ever a problem the bars are very good about correcting the problem right away.”

Some of the safety requirements for the local bars include fire extinguishers, a number of exits, exit signs in clear view, doors that swing certain ways, emergency lights and sprinkler systems.

Sean Carr, general manager of Junction, also said knowing where exits are is an important precaution, but that management should be alerted if a customer feels uncomfortable.

Safety should not be a concern for customers Carr said because employees have mandatory hands on training with the police and fire department and know how to react in situations. General Manager John DeSmith said his job at Howard’s Club H has many responsibilities.

“I am responsible for the people who walk through our doors,” DeSmith said. “It would break my heart if someone was hurt here.” Bands have asked in the past to use pyrotechnics at Howard’s, the device that started the fire in Rhode Island, DeSmith said.

“I told the bands no way,” DeSmith said. “If they are a good band they don’t need anything else but their talent.”

The fire division in Bowling Green does a great job said DeSmith. He said when the marshals have a suggestion for him to make Howard’s safer, the suggestion is completed.

The bar manager at Brewster’s, David Johnston, said that the only way a fire could start in Bowling Green would probably be from a cigarette, a gas leak, or some natural disaster.

“I feel that Bowling Green is pretty strict about fire codes,” Johnston said. “Fights are probably the biggest worry for customers.”

Burns said that in the end the fire in Rhode Island was a sad example of how people forget that accidents can happen.

“There will always be people pushing safety limits because they think nothing can happen in them,” Burns said. “I would just say that people who go to the bars need to be aware of their environment.”