When I first moved to Cluj, I was taken in by the party scene. No last call, good vibes, cheap drinks. The perfect party cocktail. It's a potent mix, it usually delivers, and everybody goes home happy at the end of the night. But every time I descended into smoke-filled party dungeons like Janis, Diesel, Stuf, and others, there was always this niggling thought at the back of my mind: "Fire Hazard."
When I first started working security during my university days there was this very zealous guy training me. He wore black leather gloves, a duty belt with mace and cuffs, a utility knife, a bulletproof vest (which, he said, required a permit), and he wielded a hefty Mag Lite. Pretty much the stereotypical security guard, cop wannabe. This getup might be normal for security guards in the US, but not in Canada. Anyway, this one lesson really stuck.
As as we patrolled the hallways of a large condo we had to check all the common area access doors. We get to the first door and he says to me, "Alright go ahead, check if everything's in order." I grab the handle, twist, open it, stick my head in and, "BAM, you're dead! You made a fatal mistake my friend. If there'd been a fire blazing in there that was it for you." As I recovered from the shock of being dead, he explained the that the correct procedure was to carefully grab the door handle and check if it's hot, and then to push open the door while keeping your body to off to the side. Whether there's a fire or criminal on the other side this leaves you less exposed. Good point. But like I said, zealous.
In the future I made this little drill part of the training for every guard who was lucky enough to learn from me.
Another one of my responsibilities during patrols was to check the fire extinguishers in the hallways. For those who don't know, every floor of every building in Canada, whether residential or commercial, has fire extinguishers and, often, fire hoses that are hooked up the the building water mains. My task was to check that the pressure gauge on each extinguisher was in the green, and that the extinguisher inspection was not overdue. This was indicated by a signature and a date on paper tags affixed to each extinguisher.
This is all without even mentioning the number of fire drills we had at school. From elementary through to university, these were regular occurrences. The procedure was drilled into us to the point I still remember it by heart: Don't panic, line up at the door, file out of the classroom, teacher leaves last, go to the allotted spot in the school yard, and take attendance all while the alarm is buzzing in the background. Thanks to the repetition, we all knew exactly what to do. My wife tells me she can't remember ever having a fire drill during her school days.
What I've described here probably falls into one of a hundred-plus reasons America is better than Romania - which is much too boring a list for me to ever write - but it goes to show that preventative measures can go a long way, even if tragedies like the one in Bucharest only happen once in a lifetime. It was one time too many for over 200 people at Club Colectiv.
I have written about this before, plenty of times. The apathy of the average Romanian vis-a-vis community and politics has put Romania where it is today. I'm glad to see that this is changing. Civic responsibility is much more trendy than it was five years ago. But we still all to easily accept stupidity and shortsightedness, and resign ourselves to the old, "that's Romania" motto. The only way to change for the better is by fighting every single battle that needs fighting, even if we're the only one fighting it.
There are plenty of lessons to be learned from this terrible event. Educating the country about the concept of a Fire Hazard is a good first step.