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Nightclubs At Risk


Andy76

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It has been a tradegy and a sudden loss to those that lost their lives in the fire at Santika on New Years Night just after midnight when fireworks ignited the building causing a loss of over 60 people dead.

Since this incident I have witnessed the most horrific scene for 2009. I have decided to investigate and question other club owners in popular areas including Bangkok's number one back packing district, Khaosan Rd.

Just 1 day after the incident at Santika in Ekkamai. I went to Khaosan road on a busy evening during New Years day of 2009. I went to one the popular bars called "Gullivers" which is situated on the corner of the main walking street.

The security staff at the font of the door did check pockets by padding there hands against my body checking for weapons, knives, guns, and possibly drugs. Though the check is not secure, its just a quick safety measure.

The main entrance to this bar has only 2 doors which open up in either direction. Once inside the bar, there is no fire exit visible nor any green lights above th ceiling stating "Fire Exit". I walked around inside and noticed a smoking lounge that was in a secure room from the rest of the bar area. I took a closer look inside and noticed a door that they claim to be a fire exit. It was locked and needed to be opened by a key from a member of staff. The door was made of glass with a bar across the middle. However, the smoking room does not seem to be fitted witha sprinkler system nor any emergency exit.

I continued to look around the bar and went upstairs to the pool and bar area. I noticed above me was a green sign near the stairway which leads to the smoking room but the door is locked! The only exit for this club if there was an emergency would be the front main door.

The room inside the bar has sound proof cushion foam against all the walls. The floor is made of marble tiles and the furnitures are made of wood including the bar area, tables, chairs and pool tables.

I asked to speak with the manager of this bar, but he was unavailable. I did however speak with a supervisor at the front door and asked him about his emergency plan. He said "Our staff are trained to deal with the situation, the authorities check our building every month". I then asked him why is the emergency door locked? He said "It's not locked but someone has a key to unlock it". I then asked do you have a fire sprinkler system installed. He said "We have fire extinguishers that can put the fire out if there was an emergency".

Gulliver's capicity of people can reach to about 300 to 500 on busy nights. And it's smaller than Santika.

I then decided to visit another nightclub, named "The Club" just a little walk away from Gullivers. The owner of this club was a foreigner.

I walked inside the club without being checked by security. I thought immediately I could be a threat to the club, the people inside and emergency crew if they had to arrive. I took a close look at the ceiling and walls. The ceilings were covered with white cloth that seems to be made from cotton or some kind of soft material. This also looks highly flammable. I did not see any sprinkler system on the ceiling. I only saw two fire extinguishers, one blue bottle and one red bottle.

The dance floor inside the club had a bar, a DJ stand that overlooks the dance floor. Behind the bar there is an emergency exit, which at the time of looking was blocked by crates of beer, at least 2 stacks high.

The toilets have both male and female secluded areas, but both these toilets does not have an emergency exit. Worse still, the toilets to this club are at the rear of the club, so if there was a fire. Your going to be trapped inside.

I asked to speak with the manager of The Club and we spoke outside. He was very hesitant about who I was. I told him I was representing the BBC from London and wanted to ask a few questions about his club. I asked him why is the emergency door blocked by crates of beer. He said it was not blocked. I then asked do you have a sprinkler system installed. he claimed it was above the ceiling but you can't see it. He also said he had fire extinguishers in the building. I asked him if he could show the emergency exit, he said, "No".

The overall conclusion to this short investigation, that clubs in Bangkok are not safe or regulated enough for the safety others. We need to act and to protect those that wish to enjoy themselves on a night out.

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Andy - you are stating the obvious mate. Fire codes are non-existent or the application of such. I dare say you wouldn't go to any venue in Bangkok, best course of action - stay close to known exits or don't go at all. I seriously doubt that we will see any change on how fire codes are applied which is a shame because at the end of the day most of this is plain common sense.

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Have to commend you for your initiative. No doubt some will be quick to condemn you for making the inquiry, but I say it is a consumer's right to know. Last year, after the hotel fire, people were very keen on safety, but I bet this season, people forgot about it as they chased the best price. I think the safest places will always be the clubs in the major hotels. Sure they are not exciting or "hip", but one thing Hilton, Sheraton, Marriott, Novotel, Intercontinental etc. all have in common is verified life & safety standards. You cannot carry the hotel name unless you meet the fire containment, detection and exit requirements. Maybe there will be some weaknesses, but for the most part they comply with western quality levels.

Count your blessings in Bangkok, whatever problems exist they are probably much worse in places like Chiang Mai and on Phuket. I have been in a few places and all of them are exactly as per your findings. I passed on a trip for a friend's party at Galaxy in Patong because I know the exit situation. I bet if anyone went into Bannana, Coyote, TaiPan, Tiger they would find similar scary stuff. I don't need to be told to avoid the places, but they are still packed with tourists partying. Thing is if I stood outside one of these places with a sheet about fire safety deficiencies specified for the club, how many tourists would pay attention and how soon before a local club owner had me beaten up?

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Congratulations OP on your effort and you should try to bring your findings to the attention of some authorities in this country.

Sooner or later they will have to do something.

But this is Thailand so who knows.

I am in Pattaya and the old Hollywood Disco was a death trap and had a fire on the outside, etc., and has moved to what appears to be safer premises.

Of course as some have commented many other buildings are fire hazards too, but these nights clubs and similar establishments seem to have the worst record of disasters.

The owners of Santika should be prosecuted to the full extent.

Edited by R123
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Please never lose sight of the fact that we are talking about these issues a in country that is a 'Developing nation'. In these parts of the world the building codes, the occupational health and safety issues and other general safety issues are not equivalant to those of in the Western nations.

When people travel into these parts they need to be mindful of these types of things and make their own decisions in relation to their own safety & welfare.

Clearly when you move about here you will see things all around you that are different to how its done in Europe, America & other western locations. Some of these things are what allows for places like Thailand to be so cheap and attractive to foriegn visitors. One must be aware that the Thais pay the same or similar prices for raw materials as we do in the west and the whilst there are various factors that make it so cheap here, for example; cost of labour, there are other reasons. I beleive some of these things may be safety & building standards, the way in which building developments are processed & examined, their quality and finally the training/education of the people involved in the various processes.

Whilst this is a very tragic and sad event that has occured on NYE, there is something more to be learnt about this than simply jumping up and down about the standards here. It is wrong for people to run around conducting their own 'Investigations' and going on about things in all the wrong ways, the media type organisations are very good at carrying on like complete <deleted> in these types of situations. The media should get back to reporting facts, not opinions and most certainly shouldnt be using sensationalism to make bad situations even worse.

Whilst I agree that individual establishments need to provide the basics for safety of their patrons, changes need to be encouraged at the Governement Level through legislation & enforcement. Clearly standards here are improving, I have seen that in my time in Thailand, but it will take many more years before standards are at a level which we find acceptable in the west.

At this time my thoughts & prayers are with the victims and their families.

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there is a group on Facebook now called Unchain the Exits!, where people are supposed to name and shame those places that don't clearly mark or that lock their fire exits.

Sounds like a good idea. Think these places that are happy to risk human lives should be shamed publicly.

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there is a group on Facebook now called Unchain the Exits!, where people are supposed to name and shame those places that don't clearly mark or that lock their fire exits.

Will be a long list...

Why not to list places that are safe with unobstructed fire exits ? At least people would know where to have night out knowing that the management takes safety seriously.

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I always look for any exits when in a public building.

Its much easier to winge and b#tch than take responsibility for your own safety. Its always someone else fault.

I agree winging is the easy route. Responsibility must start with the government, but we all know corruption runs right down the ladder to the cleaner.

There has been many catastrophic fires throughout Thailand, but never has the safety got any better, there is a lot of clubs down here in Pattaya that will have the same disastrous effects.

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L&I (License and Inspections) which are responsible for this in Philadelphia is a joke, one of the biggest cities in the U.S. I hit the clubs, and lounges very frequently here in Philly, and am in Bangok every few months and frequent as well; safety standards vary in both countries. It's up to the owner to make sure these things are in place, it is not just thailand. It is everywhere, you have the good, bad and the ugly when it comes to the bar business in any COUNTRY. I recently went into a lounge in philly where they just stuck the sprinkler head (no pipework)into the drywall, this was a very frequent practice in Phillly; they now require all new lounges to have all sprinkler work (pipework) exposed, depending on grandfather clauses (or you can just let L&I hold your wallet!)

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This is not about regulations. Thailand has plenty of laws and regulations. Whether they are inferior is irrelevant.

This is about inferior values:

1 - Thai culture is interminably corrupt, through and through. It's what they know. Police, courts, fire inspectors, insurance inspectors, all of them are financially rewarded to ignore the rule of law.

2 - Thais are culturally incapable of accepting responsibility for their actions; without responsibility, there are no consequences; without consequences, no change is possible.

3 - Therefore . . . Thailand will remain unchanged, its corrupt cultural values assuring any regulations or rules of law will continue to be ignored; officials will continue to be paid-off; the safety of its citizens and tourists will continue to be placed at risk; and, 3rd World rates of unneccessary deaths will continue.

Here's my bet:

1 - No change. Andy might again inspect these same clubs 6-months from now and nothing will have changed.

2 - No one will be held accountable for these negligent homicides.

Despite all the wais and smiles and illusions under which Thais prefer to live, a pretty pathetic culture, eh?

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This is not about regulations. Thailand has plenty of laws and regulations. Whether they are inferior is irrelevant.

This is about inferior values:

1 - Thai culture is interminably corrupt, through and through. It's what they know. Police, courts, fire inspectors, insurance inspectors, all of them are financially rewarded to ignore the rule of law.

2 - Thais are culturally incapable of accepting responsibility for their actions; without responsibility, there are no consequences; without consequences, no change is possible.

3 - Therefore . . . Thailand will remain unchanged, its corrupt cultural values assuring any regulations or rules of law will continue to be ignored; officials will continue to be paid-off; the safety of its citizens and tourists will continue to be placed at risk; and, 3rd World rates of unneccessary deaths will continue.

Here's my bet:

1 - No change. Andy might again inspect these same clubs 6-months from now and nothing will have changed.

2 - No one will be held accountable for these negligent homicides.

Despite all the wais and smiles and illusions under which Thais prefer to live, a pretty pathetic culture, eh?

Yeah a very narrow minded person could say that.

Since you are so critical of the culture here, what is your culture....what part of the world makes you so high and mighty?

Edited by neverdie
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According to a recent poll of the Thai populace you have about 20-30 percent of people saying the authorities should get tough on safety in nightclubs and other venues because of this tragedy. I think that's just not enough.

As for worrying about people skipping out on the bill, it's very simple, they should just take a page from some open air club on soi Patpong that I've been to at least once. Every time they bring you a new drink you have to pay immediately. So, leave the emergency exits unlocked and just make people pay right when they get their drink (been to more than one place in Bangkok that does it this way, seems a very simple way to avoid bill disputes at the end of the night). That club I'm talking about, of which I can't remember the name but is not some go-go or similar but just a small dancing/nightclub/live band bar, has a large, open entrance and basically no windows that I can remember. If they can do it in place like that, why can't other places? Also, in a club like that, a fire would be far less dangerous as there are wide, wide spaces to escape to the street.

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This is not about regulations. Thailand has plenty of laws and regulations. Whether they are inferior is irrelevant.

This is about inferior values:

1 - Thai culture is interminably corrupt, through and through. It's what they know. Police, courts, fire inspectors, insurance inspectors, all of them are financially rewarded to ignore the rule of law.

2 - Thais are culturally incapable of accepting responsibility for their actions; without responsibility, there are no consequences; without consequences, no change is possible.

3 - Therefore . . . Thailand will remain unchanged, its corrupt cultural values assuring any regulations or rules of law will continue to be ignored; officials will continue to be paid-off; the safety of its citizens and tourists will continue to be placed at risk; and, 3rd World rates of unneccessary deaths will continue.

Here's my bet:

1 - No change. Andy might again inspect these same clubs 6-months from now and nothing will have changed.

2 - No one will be held accountable for these negligent homicides.

Despite all the wais and smiles and illusions under which Thais prefer to live, a pretty pathetic culture, eh?

It's very unfortunate that you have such a narrow minded view of the world. Just curiouse as to what box you have lived in your entire life; You must be from Utopia. I really hope that you are not teaching, or attempting to mold young minds in Thailand!

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there is a group on Facebook now called Unchain the Exits!, where people are supposed to name and shame those places that don't clearly mark or that lock their fire exits.

The problem with "Unchain the Exits" could be very easily be solved with a small box, with glass front, maybe lit with an LED, next to the exit, where the key/s is/are in!

Anyone can knock in the glass and open the exit in an emergency!

It's only paranoia of the owners, "losing money"!

I can't imagin

what else....

Edited by Samuian
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I fail to see what swillowbee has said wrong about thais, on the whole they have these traits, and at no point does he compare it to his nationality or culture or claim they are any better than Thai standards.

Too many people on here go into defensive mode and defend the indefensible at times, the fact is that this thread is discussing thailand and how lax it is in enforcing regulations.

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Andy - you are stating the obvious mate. Fire codes are non-existent or the application of such. I dare say you wouldn't go to any venue in Bangkok, best course of action - stay close to known exits or don't go at all. I seriously doubt that we will see any change on how fire codes are applied which is a shame because at the end of the day most of this is plain common sense.

Are your comments on Bangok's safety codes based on fact or based on opinion? I am not trying to be argumentative here, but I have been told that Bangkok's fire safety codes are up to par with most countries in the west, but the problem is the codes are never enforced.

Of course, your best course of action remains the best course of action regardless of codes and enforcement and as a parent following this tragedy my wife and I have been talking to our daughter about this. I am just wondering if it is true that Bangkok's codes are up to date with global fire safety codes.

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Night club fires are a world wide curse and sad to say the customer i.e you must be aware of the surroundings and make your own decision whether to enter or not. As the OP found on his "rounds" its not difficult to find the reasons to move on.

I am in the fire industry and it amazes me when owners of potential death traps are asked why they dont have useful fire fighting equipment on their premises the answer is always "why ? i am insured".And this seems to be the Asian concept.

In my many years of extensive business travel, I have actually been involved with five hotel fires in which i was staying, two in Taiwan, One in cairo, one in Sao Poulo and the other in China. And these were not back packers hotels I assure you.

These days, when staying at a hotel I refuse to live above the second floor and I insist that my room is as close as possible to the fire exits. When i get to my room i religously check the fire exits to ensure doors are not locked and the exits are nor blocked by garbage etc.

Am I paranoid, maybe but I am still alive and breathing,unlike 60 odd souls who were in the NYE fire.

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He said "It's not locked but someone has a key to unlock it". I then asked do you have a fire sprinkler system installed. He said "We have fire extinguishers that can put the fire out if there was an emergency".

Did you ask him where the fire extinguishers are located? I'm sure you'll find them on the shelf of the local Homepro. He likely has a standing order to "borrow" them in case of emergency.

So long as he has 20,000 baht to pay the family of the dead that's all that matters in the end.

Just once I would like to be able to venture into their minds to understand what happens inside their heads.

Mind boggling.

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It's very unfortunate that you have such a narrow minded view of the world. Just curiouse as to what box you have lived in your entire life; You must be from Utopia. I really hope that you are not teaching, or attempting to mold young minds in Thailand!

I mold little Thai/American minds and I agree 100 percent what was written not by you but by the person to whom you replied. Thais have no concept of responsibility. i see this with my own eyes.

I don't need you to get all self-righteous with him or me and start telling me that what I witness ( I am a trained observer) is not what I think it is. It is so peddle your Thai apologies elsewhere.

Why don't you speak to the fathers and mothers of the children who died in Santika and tell them all about how the Thai owners are owning up to their responsibilities.

Hogwash.

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It's very unfortunate that you have such a narrow minded view of the world. Just curiouse as to what box you have lived in your entire life; You must be from Utopia. I really hope that you are not teaching, or attempting to mold young minds in Thailand!

I mold little Thai/American minds and I agree 100 percent what was written not by you but by the person to whom you replied. Thais have no concept of responsibility. i see this with my own eyes.

I don't need you to get all self-righteous with him or me and start telling me that what I witness ( I am a trained observer) is not what I think it is. It is so peddle your Thai apologies elsewhere.

Why don't you speak to the fathers and mothers of the children who died in Santika and tell them all about how the Thai owners are owning up to their responsibilities.

Hogwash.

Thai have no concept of responsability? ok, but who has then? Our nice home country? Sorry NO! May be your home country has security laws that are better enforced than here but that's all. I'm quite sure that every club owner in the US would take away every security system if they could and if it would make them save as little as 100 bucks, without any feeling of responsability. And the same applies to MY home country so I'm not blaming anyone here. I have travelled many countries and I have never seen a club owner with any feeling of responsability anywhere. Only feeling afraid of being closed (and thus not making money) for not complying to the standards.

Same same everywhere

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Please never lose sight of the fact that we are talking about these issues a in country that is a 'Developing nation'. In these parts of the world the building codes, the occupational health and safety issues and other general safety issues are not equivalant to those of in the Western nations.

When people travel into these parts they need to be mindful of these types of things and make their own decisions in relation to their own safety & welfare.

Unfortunately, You are wrong there, There are Building and safety codes in effect in Thailand, and they are equal to those in many western countries.

The problem isn't the laws or the statutes, its the enforcement and implementation. As has been stated on this thread by other posters that you took offence to, there is no sense of Personal responsibility in any government agency (or private for that matter). On top of that the culture of corruption encourages the perpetuation of the existing system which is to Ignore the laws and pay the tea money.

While I would love it not to be so, the simple fact is that nothing will change due to this tragedy.

regards

Freddie

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