When over 1,000 people packed into the Cocoanut Grove nightclub on Saturday, November 28, 1942, no one could conceive that nearly half would die either that night or shortly afterward from a fire that began small but quickly raged through the several lounges that made up the popular night spot. So many issues conspired to aggravate this tragedy that it seems almost unbelievable today, but we still are stunned by its magnitude and even more astonished to see similar fires repeat even with the lessons learned that night.
Many changes to fire and building regulations resulted from Cocoanut Grove including multiple exits with panic hardware sufficient for the number of occupants, defining assembly occupancies and no combustible materials within those occupancies, permanent emergency lighting, revolving door improvements, and so on.
Those who recognized the danger that night and began an early escape were most likely to survive. Learn from this. Never enter an occupancy without knowing how to exit. Going out the way you came in is not always possible so identify an alternate egress. Report locked exit doors. Remember that the Cocoanut Grove patrons didn’t think they were entering what would become the deadliest nightclub fire in US history. They certainly didn’t expect that they would never come out. Don’t make the same mistake.