Archive for Friday, November 27, 2009

The Oread Hotel targets concerns over fire

Safety measures taken to secure underground club

November 27, 2009


As finishing touches are being made to a new hotel that towers 10 stories above Lawrence, it’s not what Fire Chief Mark Bradford sees from the outside that concerns him most.

It’s the part of The Oread that’s 80 feet below ground he’s focused on. It’s the place where people will soon gather to drink and dance at The Cave, a nightclub that’s four stories below ground, and where dozens of cars will be parked on four decks of underground parking.

“The one area that we really hate more than anything else to fight fire is below grade,” said Bradford, Lawrence-Douglas County Fire Medical chief. “There just aren’t too many ways out.”

Many safety measures have been employed at The Oread, 12th and Indiana streets, to protect people from the potential hazards involved with such a complex structure.

Bradford said the building on the north edge of the Kansas University campus presents a unique situation for local firefighters: rescuing people from or fighting fire below ground, next to four decks of cars filled with rapidly burning gasoline.

“We train all the time for high-rise firefighting, we train for automobile fires in confined spaces,” Bradford said. “It’s just a new location.”

People visiting the below-ground floors of the new development — the nightclub is slated to open next week — will be protected from the parking areas by firewalls. And in the event of a fire, people will be able to leave the building through a stairwell leading them directly outside. They won’t have to exit through the parking garage.

Nancy Longhurst, general manager of The Oread, said fire safety has been a priority throughout work on the entire project, which is expected to be finished by February.

“We welcome all of our guests, and we want them to feel good and comfortable and happy in their surroundings,” she said.

Fire administrators have been working each week with developers of the new facility, valued at about $40 million, to make sure that many safety features are in place and that all of the building meets the strictest fire protection standards and codes.

It’s unlikely that the hotel structure itself would ever catch fire; it’s made entirely of concrete, stone and granite, the fire chief said. But things inside could ignite and people may still need to be rescued.

“We have complied with every single aspect of the fire department’s rules and regulations,” Longhurst said. “Everything we’ve put in here will benefit the fire department.”

Many safety features of the development have been implemented within the hotel, which will have 100 guest rooms and a handful of privately owned condos, to make firefighting easier if the need arises.

“Everything’s checked twice, and sometimes three times, to make sure that it’s done right,” Bradford said. “They’ve provided everything we’ve asked for.”


repaste 8 years, 5 months ago

So - one way out. . . .I know they hired a lot of frat/sorority kids to try and get that crowd. They do spend a lot on booze!

flyin_squirrel 8 years, 5 months ago

Interesting that the same day an article about the Oread Inn nightcub runs, another nightclub has an article about a brawl sending people to the hospital. Now instead of talking about the fire issue four floors below ground, how are they going to get the fighting patrons out from four floors below ground?

And if you think this is going to be a frat/sorority bar, you don't know the nightclub scene...

bearded_gnome 8 years, 5 months ago

firewalls. And in the event of a fire, people will be able to leave the building through a stairwell leading them directly outside. They won’t have to exit through the parking garage.

---one stairwell. a little hysteria, a little smoke, people trampled, this reminds me of the deadly fire at a nightclub in the 40's, had a lower level. think was called the Cabana maybe, that many people, only stairs or parking garage. yeah.

Jayhawker07 8 years, 5 months ago

WoW! Sounds like it is going to be a great place to party. Didn’t hear much about night club in the bottom floor of the parking garage when they wanted to build this hotel. I thought the 11 million from me the taxpayer was for the need of parking? How much parking was proposed in the first place and how much parking do they have now. Will I have to park on the street or do they have a place for me to park? How many clubs are in this thing and there capacities? Where do the employees park? Do they have employee parking? Have there been behind closed door changes? And just how are they paying us back? Was this a loan with interest and at what rate? How much is that monthy payment to the tax payer? When I look back at the renderings of the hotel that was approved and what it looks like now is greatly different. I am feeling the tax payer is a little left out of the loop on this thing and it should not be this way.

flyin_squirrel 8 years, 5 months ago


To answer all your questions: 11 Mill for parking- Only hotel patron parking How much parking proposed? 200 How much parking now? 100 Will you park on street? yes, parking garage only for hotel guests How many clubs? 8 - One Night Club- 450 people - 3 small bars (one on each floor above the nightclub)- app. 60 people each - 1 Sports Bar on Main floor- app 200 people - 1 Restaurant- app 200 people - 1 Terrace bar on 5th floor- app 250 people -1 Rooftop Bar- app. 100 people Employee Parking- None Closed door changes- Yes Payback rate- they are carrying the note, not the city.

Need we say anymore... Good thing the Oread Neighborhood assocation was for this, because now they cannot complain to anyone about parking issues the hotel will cause.

Tom McCune 8 years, 5 months ago

Most building codes require 2 completely separate exits if the occupant load of a space is more than 50 people. (This works out to roughly 750 square feet in size -- about the size of two, 2-car garages.) In a "place of assembly" (such as a nightclub) within a hotel, both exits usually need to be enclosed by fire-rated walls and doors, although there is some "wiggle room" depending on the specifics of the situation.

The Fire Department and the Building Department have surely checked this out, but Jesse please ask the manager if they have two completely separate exits leading to the outdoors. (Not just one.)

stlcards515 8 years, 5 months ago

I really don't see a fire happening. I would say most club fires are caused because of smoking, and since people can't smoke there, the chance of a fire goes down dramatically.

overthemoon 8 years, 5 months ago

How did this little 'feature' get through the codes inspection??? The fire marshal should have had a chance to review the plans during the plan review before permits were issued.. Did they miss this or has it been added in? Is there now handicapped accessible route? A place of refuge for someone unable to navigate stairs in and emergency?

Thing is, fire isn't the only kind of emergency, what about idiots with guns or simply fresh air supply in a packed underground night club?

bearded_gnome 8 years, 5 months ago

in 1942, the Cocoanut Grove fire, nearly 500 died, hundreds more injured, worst fire for deaths in american history or nearly so:

limited exits in fire.

flyin_squirrel 8 years, 5 months ago

There is an exit out into the parking garage, and an elevator from the lobby for the handicap and hotel guests only.

Keith 8 years, 5 months ago

"There is an exit out into the parking garage, and an elevator from the lobby for the handicap and hotel guests only."

That elevator will come in handy in case of fire.

Jayhawker07 8 years, 5 months ago


Thanks for the info. Are you serious, 8 bars? How was that approved? I certainly don't remember this in the presentation to the city, at least the meetings I was able to listen in on. I thought the city was very concerned with the underage drinking. So they put 8 bars, 20 feet off of campus. Why did they not offer the yellow sub a deal on space instead of JJ's. So much for working with the locals.

I am glad I live far enough away not to be bothered with the parking. How did this go through with no parking. I thought this was a major concern at the very beginning, and the only way to make it feasible, which is why they needed a parking garage of that size. No parking, no business except for kids walking from campus and the occasional event.

Hey, any word on the bioscience lab bailout. Must be doing some closed door deals on that one too. It has been too quiet on that one.

bearded_gnome 8 years, 5 months ago

very informative site RE nightclub fires, egress, stairs, etc.

in time of fire, elevators aren't a very useful plan unless the building has emergency power setup for the elevator.

SusieCreamcheeze 8 years, 5 months ago

Douglas county would not let me put a bathroom in my barn....but some folks seem to get away with anything...very interesting

Bill Lee 8 years, 5 months ago

Most elevators are designed to shut down immediately in case of fire. They are dangerous places where people can be trapped with no escape. In case of fire, always depend on stairs.

mr_right_wing 8 years, 5 months ago

How does that saying go..? "Never underestimate the stupidity of people."

Welll...hopefully when disaster does strike, we won't lose any firefighters. And wow, just imagine the lawsuits that will spring up!

Evan Ridenour 8 years, 5 months ago

There isn't just one exit, that is a violation of building code. I am not sure if the multiple exit points are emergency only or not (which could or could not be in compliance with building code) but there is more than one.

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