When Potassium met Ethanol in a Ewha lab on July 2008, their fiery chemistry overpowered even the lab fire extinguisher. The nearby fire department was hastily summoned, and the student matchmaker was left with a scorched finger and leg.
November 9 is Fire Prevention Day, but many students still have little interest when it comes to fire prevention. According to statistics released by the Seoul Metropolitan Fire & Disaster Headquarters Department , there were a total of 18 fires in all 58 universities within Seoul as of August this year. The numbers show there was at least one fire in every three universities.
Most of them happened during science experiments, but Lim Kuk-mok, head fire-fighter of the Seoul Metropolitan Fire & Disaster Headquarters Department, claims dangerous experiments are not the sole reason for such frequent disasters. “The biggest reason would be the lack of caution,” said the anxious fire fighter. “People always convince themselves that their actions won’t bring serious consequences. This careless way of thinking is common in society and in all age groups.”
Ewha is not an exception. We have had to put out fires in dustbins that were caused by carelessly thrown away cigarettes.” said Park Il-young, head of the Ewha Control center. “Students don’t seem to realize this but smoking is actually forbidden in all campus buildings.” According to Park, there are also other unique factors that lead to fires within Ewha Campus. The school itself is highly exposed to fire because of its location on a mountain, and the temperature difference creates an ideal environment for fires. Park also mentions that because the students are all female, they are more sensitive towards room temperature, and ask for room heating earlier compared to other schools. This leads to a higher possibility of fires related to misuse of electrical devices.
In order to fight against the lack of caution among students, Ewha has its own collection of fire-related equipment spread among campus buildings. According to the Ewha Control Center , there are seven types of fire- extinguishing equipment such as spring-coolers, auto-fire detectors, and pumps, all of which are concentrated in dormitories and laboratories. Seven other types of evacuation facilities, four types of emergency alarms, and five types of water-related extinguishers are placed in most buildings. In labs where experiments are held frequently, alcohol lamps are no longer used as a way to prevent fires accidents. “We use hot plates instead,” said Park Han-sol (Natural Science, 1). “I feel much safer using equipment that doesn’t require actual fire.”
Six different evacuation programs are conducted annually, including a Fire Run held in conjunction with the fire department, which is an exercise to lessen the amount of time it takes for the fire department to arrive at Ewha. The Ewha Control Center has recently been opened within the ECC building to increase efforts on campus. “The new Control Center is an update from the previous Security Center . It is in charge of detecting fires all over campus,” said Park. “The new center has full control over every fire related facility on campus, and an automatic system that gives us the location of the fire itself.”
Park says most students are generally cooperative when it comes to preventing fires, but agrees with Lim that it is those minor, overlooked mistakes from lack of caution that lead to big disasters. “Students can make a big difference by carrying out small cautionary actions, such as not using fire or gas-related equipment in club rooms,” said Park. “We would also see less than half of the number of fires today if students would only check whether their cigarettes have completely gone out or not before they throw it away.”