Fire services are investigating claims that students’ safety may be at risk after a Cherwell investigation has revealed that three Oxford nightclubs could be lacking basic fire safety precautions.
Cherwell investigation of eight nightclubs in Oxford has raised concerns about the compliance of Kukui, Escape, and OFS with fire regulations as stated in the Regulatory Reform Fire Safety Order 2005.
These concerns are being followed up on by the Oxfordshire Fire Service.
The Order states that all employees must be given adequate fire safety training when they commence employment as well as receiving refreshers as appropriate. This must include training in the use of fire equipment.
But staff at the clubs interviewed by Cherwell indicated that they had never received any fire training, a finding described as very disturbing by the fire service.
One Kukui staff member said that the club’s fire and safety training is “pretty casual.” She said they had taken no action for almost half an hour on one occasion when the fire alarm went off in the upstairs of the club.
She said, “the fire alarm went off last November for 25 minutes upstairs. They couldn’t hear it downstairs. I didn’t do anything. People were in the club. Someone eventually heard it and went and told the staff downstairs.” She added, “the alarm was fixed afterwards.”
She also said that she had not experienced any fire drills while she had been working at the club, admitting that she only knew how to use a fire extinguisher from her previous job.
Another staff member also admitted that the club had not trained her to use fire extinguishers.
Two other staff members who have been working at Kukui since October said that they too had never received any fire training at the club.
At Escape, staff spoken to by Cherwell had also received no fire training. One staff member admitted that he couldn’t even use a fire extinguisher.
They mentioned that the club had mock drills but that these were “not treated seriously.” They said that if there is a fire “we just go out” and that there is no specific fire plan. The club also had no first aider present.
At OFS, one staff member said, “there is no fire training due to the company rules.” They added, however, that they knew where the fire extinguishers were and that there was a register for staff signing in and out.
Pat Rosen, the Station Officer of the Oxfordshire Fire Brigade, commented on the results of the investigation, saying, “obviously we’re very disturbed at the findings of this investigation and we’ll be following it up.”
“I’m going to pass the details to the Council and we’ll start the inspection. This will consist of visiting the clubs and talking to the owners.”
Both Kukui and Escape were visited by the Oxfordshire Fire Service on Tuesday. However, both clubs denied claims about negligence in adhering to fire and safety regulations.
The general manager of Kukui said the fire services had visited the club and found that they were complying with fire and safety regulations. He said, “we are 100% complying with regulations across the land.”
He added, “all staff, including bouncers, before we opened our doors, had had fire training.”
When confronted with the evidence from our investigation, he said, “we have recently taken on new staff” and suggested that it was these people whom our investigators had spoken to.
He also said, “I have a record of all my staff members who have signed to say that they have received fire training.”
Barry Stockford, a member of the Fire Prevention Team, commented, “our response yesterday was immediate. The records of the clubs were satisfactory but we couldn’t validate this in terms of questioning staff and we will be following that up in the next few weeks with fire audits.”
He also added that the Fire Services were “far from dismissive of this.”
Pulse, the student run club promotions company, which has organised several events at both Escape and OFS, commented, “PulseNation exists to give students the best night out possible. We only work with people we think will support us in achieving this aim and we are confident that all the venues we work with are complying with the rules. If people are claiming otherwise we’ll speak to the management teams, but we’re committed to providing students with safe, fun and cheap nights out.”
Pulse has worked in collaboration with OUSU since last year.
Rosanna McBeath, OUSU’s VP for welfare, said, “student safety is very important, especially when out in clubs. OUSU knows that the staff at Pulse Nation do check that clubs are complying with Fire Safety laws, we wouldn’t have agreed to collaborate with them otherwise. At the end of the day, though, Pulse Nation has to take the club operators at their word. I hope in light of this investigation both the clubs and the authorities work harder to ensure that fire safety standards are complied with.”
Several students have expressed distress at the findings of the investigation.
Victoria Turk, Oriel JCR Entz rep, added, “it also worries me that Escape doesn’t have anyone who could help with medical problems, as I’m sure these occur frequently among clubbers.”
Alexander Bulfin, JCR President of University, commented, “The question should not be whether Entz Officers should sell tickets to nights at these venues, but whether club night organisers should be using them in the first instance. Students and JCRs pay these promoters to organise nights out for them – this should mean ensuring that it is safe as well as fun and value for money.”
Other students have revealed their lack of concern about fire safety when out clubbing.
Rachel Chew, a St Peter’s first-year, added, “I usually don’t look where the fire exits are as I feel safe and I trust the organisers.”