When it Comes to Safety, it is Best to Yield
On-site Safety Inspection at Yeongdeungpo Fire Station
Date: December 26, 2012
Venue: Yeongdeungpo Fire Station
I want all of you—the highest experts in this field—to re-evaluate the most urgent problems as a whole. Instead of merely “mending the barn after the horse is stolen,” it is better to take thorough preventive measures.
High-rise apartment buildings, which are my main theme today, are constantly being built, and the fire that occurred in Haeundae, Busan, is particularly noteworthy. If we are not well-prepared for emergencies, the problems and damage they cause will be compounded. Since the fire in Haeundae, fire equipment and facilities have been improved to some extent, but there are still problems in our community; thus, I believe it is worth considering outsourcing safety services for high-rise buildings in downtown Seoul. I don’t think it would be a waste of money. In Japan, only apartment buildings have balconies. However, in Korea, balconies are also used as a living space, so if a fire breaks out, it can easily spread to other buildings, making it harder for people to escape.
When it comes to safety, it is best to “yield”. When you get a report of a fire, the situation seems quite easy to resolve, but something can always go wrong. On-site inspection is, thus, very important. Also, in an emergency situation, equipment sometimes does not operate properly. This issue is sometimes related to corruption. Therefore, all equipment needs to be regularly and carefully inspected, and the parking lots in your district should be visited on a regular basis. By observing the spaces firsthand, problems can be easily detected and avoided. Bukchon has many narrow alleys, making it very difficult to access. If certain buildings cannot be approached via this alley, other options need to be considered. The ways to approach certain areas should be designed like this (showing a blue print). Certain homes are approachable, while others are accessible only by ladder. The overall plan should be highly customized. In the event a fire breaks out in downtown Seoul, every fire station should know exactly how to reach the area.
Some areas are particularly susceptible to fire. Thus, depending on the area and the building, appropriate measures should be developed. How to approach an area by fire truck or how to use the fire equipment in the area concerned should be considered beforehand. After analyzing all buildings in downtown Seoul, accessible roads and fire extinguishing methods should be marked down, evaluated, and organized comprehensively. Choose a test area, evaluate it, and check whether fire trucks and equipment are able to access it. Not only the National Assembly Building and Seoul City Hall but also narrow alleys should be supervised at regular times.
What if we could deliver this plan through IT technology? Depending on the area, roads that allow access to fire trucks should be marked in red. Such roads should be marked depending on the location of homes, buildings, and other spaces.
Accident reports are usually made well. But, in an emergency situation, weak points become easily discernable. In this regard, I would like to stress the need of making regular on-site visits. For example, if you visit a subway station, you will find that many fire extinguishers installed in the station do not work properly. It makes headline news sometimes. Please make sure not to make such a mistake.
I have told you how important it is to prevent accidents from occurring in high-rise buildings, and while it is true that relatively few accidents have occurred in recent days, please be cautious regardless. As I mentioned in my speech at the 63 Square, our architecture follows well-established guidelines, and technology is developing rapidly. That is one of the reasons I suggested holding a policy expo. Some companies produce state-of-the-art equipment and facilities, but do not have the proper means to promote them, and creative innovations are being achieved all over the city. However, the Seoul Metropolitan Government is late in embracing these changes. Therefore, companies need to be given an opportunity to promote their products through a policy expo. Regardless of the equipment used, numerous firms are having a hard time making recommendations to the Seoul Metropolitan Government. Although the Seoul Metropolitan Government is encouraging everyone to participate, this cannot be done in just two to three years.
Please examine overseas cases, and keep yourself up-to-date on the cases of London and New York. Our “living safety governance,” which focuses on flood control, should also be applied to firefighting. Early prevention is essential, and if a fire really does occur, residents should be trained to control it early on. If the fire is not controlled in the initial stage, extinguishing it becomes increasingly difficult. To ensure early prevention, a system of cooperation between tenants and residents should be established. In this respect, the roles and responsibilities of our volunteer fire departments are highly critical. Training and education should be conducted regularly for these volunteers.
The fire services should adopt “living safety governance”. We tend to find problems only after accidents have already happened, and many of the problems are interconnected. Accidents such as the fires at the Incheon karaoke club and Sealand are examples of this. Furthermore, such accidents are often related to corruption, so I think upper management plays an important role in this regard. You should visit sites and buildings from time to time, making sure such accidents do not take place in downtown Seoul.
Safety doesn’t just happen, it is the result of hard work and thorough preparation and prevention. As such, it is secured not by fortune, but through effort.