A grounded theory analysis of the Rhode Island community response to The Station nightclub fire disaster

Dustin Brent Wielt, University of Rhode Island


On February 20, 2003, 462 people were present at The Station nightclub in West Warwick, Rhode Island for a rock concert by the band Great White. A fire broke out which resulted in 100 deaths and 215 people injured. How do communities respond when disaster strikes? Much of what is known about community response to disaster is based on anecdotal accounts of first responders and retrospective research studies that begin weeks or months after the disaster event. In this study, all newspaper articles about The Station fire were collected from a local newspaper, The Providence Journal, on Days 1-120 postdisaster. A grounded theory analysis was conducted on all of the quoted passages in the newspaper text, with the goal of providing a descriptive account of what happened and identifying a theoretical framework that captures the key themes of this community response. Results indicated that this community organized itself into a responsible family, a new configuration of community members whose purpose was to provide an atmosphere of support around those most directly impacted by The Station Fire, to assess predisaster conditions for understanding what happened and who was responsible, and to take action to ensure that a disaster like this never happens again in this community. The responsible family formed around a set of shared values in the community, and this formation was facilitated by identification with those most directly impacted by The Station fire, and contemplation of the incomprehensible aspects of the event and its impact on the community. The responsible family was maintained over the first four months postdisaster by the sharing of stories and participation in nnemorialization and fundraising events. Community commitment to the responsible family catalyzed a critical community assessment of predisaster conditions and overcoming predisaster obstacles for improved fire safety in the future. A comparison of these findings to other disaster research findings, the implications of these findings for disaster response planning, and the benefits of this research methodology for future disaster research are discussed. ^

Subject Area

Psychology, Social|Psychology, Clinical

Recommended Citation

Dustin Brent Wielt, "A grounded theory analysis of the Rhode Island community response to The Station nightclub fire disaster" (2009). Dissertations and Master's Theses (Campus Access). Paper AAI3401120.