Saturday, January 03, 2009

Seoul Living: Fire Safety in Korea

First of all, thank you for helping others by leaving comments on the blog. Today, I would like to talk about fire safety.

Fire safety is very pertinent issue for ourselves and for others. The expat community has seen the devastating effects of inadequate fire safety this year with the tragic deaths of Bill Kapoun and Nerine Viljoen.

For those that don’t know, Bill Kapoun died back in March due to burns over 70% of his body. He was living in an apartment that didn’t have any smoke detectors, sprinklers, and the only route of escaped was blocked by the fire. . And just recently in December, Nerine Viljeon was house sitting for a friend when a fire broke out in the apartment building. She couldn’t get out of the door because it was blocked by fire. She tried to get out by window, but she couldn’t figure out how to open it.

So today, I would like to talk to you about how you can protect yourself and loved ones from fires in Korea. Don’t rely on the building superintendent to do this for you, you should do it yourself- especially if you live in an older apartment such as Bill Kapoun. Often these do not have smoke detectors, sprinklers, alarms, or designated escape routes. So, you should protect yourself.

So let’s go over how you can do this.
1. Buy a Smoke detector. You can buy these in many supermarkets or hardware stores. A smoke detector in Korean is 화재경보기 again that is
화재경보기. There are hardware stores all over the place. Often you’ll see a little store with brooms, and appliances all around it. In Korean the hardware store is 철물점.
2. Turn off the gas when you are not using your stove or oven. There is a little knob near your stove that is connected to the gas line. You should turn it on when you are cooking, but then turn if off when it’s not in use. This will prevent gas leaks and potential gas poisonings. To remind myself, I wrote a little note on my door that says, “Turn off The Gas” that way I know that I need to turn off the gas before I leave the house.
3. Plan an escape route. If you have windows, figure out how to open them. If you are on one of the upper levels, see if there is an escape rope. Most new buildings have them now, if it doesn’t then you should speak to your building manager. And if there is only one route then I recommend that you have an old blanket ready. If there is a fire then soak the blanket in water and then wrap it around your body and you can then run through the fire without getting burned. Also if a door knob is hot, be sure not to open the door.
4. Cook carefully. You should never cook on high and if you have a grease fire then you should never, NEVER throw water to put it out. If you have a grease fire then you can cover the pot with a lid or a wet towel. Remember you should smother a grease fire.
5. If you have one of the portable stoves with propane canisters then take special caution. Those propane canisters have pressured gas in them and if they get hard enough, they will explode. If you are not using them, then be sure to open to disconnect the canister from the stove.
6. Give Space Heaters Space. Keep portable heaters and space heaters at least three feet (one meter) from anything that can burn that includes newspapers, clothes, trash. And keep children and pets away from heaters, and never leave heaters on when you leave home or go to bed. Some space heaters have timers, so learn how to work the controls if your place is too cold during the night.
7. Use Electricity Safely. If an electrical appliance smokes or has an unusual smell, unplug it immediately, then have it serviced before using it again. Replace any electrical cord that is cracked or frayed. And don't overload extension cords or run them under rugs.
8. Don’t leave your candles burning at night.
9. Call 119 if you smell smoke or see fire. The emergency center does have GPS, but you should be able to tell them what dong you are in or a famous landmark.
10.Buy a fire extinguisher just in case. Have it near the kitchen and be sure to know how to work it.