As we start our semester in Lund, we met our very own IMFSE mythbuster. He’s none other than our Human Behaviour in Fires lecturer, Daniel Nilsson!
He is our mythbuster not only because I have been told by my classmates who follow the Mythbuster series on Discovery Channel that he resembles one of the Mythbuster in the show….
He also attempts to debunk myths surrounding how we actually behave in fires as opposed to how we think people behave in fire. Controversial ideas such as use of emergency exits and panic are discussed in depth to help us understand how people behave in fire scenarios. Having taken mainly technical topics in our first semester, it was refreshing to be presented with a course that has a largely human aspect to it. This balance of two worlds is the beauty of fire safety engineering and the IMFSE programme.
As we have learnt in our society course in Edinburgh, human behavior is one which is the most difficult to characterize in a fire safety design. However, this course prove that as much as it is challenging, it is not one that we should not neglect as the study of how people behave could affect how we design and more importantly relay this design to the occupants. His first assignment got us habitually looking for emergency exits everywhere we go; be it at Paradis Biljiard during a night out or while shopping at Willys. Maybe if everyone in the world had to do this assignment at one point in their life, everyone would be aware of the emergency exits available in case of fire… well, that’s ideal… The focus was not on whether the size of the exits are sufficient or if it meet code requirements. Instead, we had to analyse how these exits would eventually interact with its users. Sadly, most of the exits we found were dubious….. which begs the question how can we do things better?
Some examples off the net. What could we do differently?
Other than lively lectures and interesting assignments, we also had interactive seminars where we debunk myths surrounding PANIC with Daniel as well as Silvia Arias, who was a former IMFSE graduate, now completing her PhD in Lund University. It was really cool to have an alumnus contributing back to the programme by leading the discussions during the seminar and even delivering a lecture on her virtual reality project. Maybe one day, our very own Silvia (and I’m referring to Silvia Milena Parra Diettes) will be teaching future budding fire safety engineers like us too! As the seminar was about PANIC, it was great to hear everyone’s point of view on what panic means to them. As Tanveer shared, it is the phenomenon he experience when he sat for his stressful 2 hour Fire Dynamic exams in Edinburgh with full knowledge having studied, revised and being an open book exam but still panic while completing it given its difficulty and the constraints of time. I guess some wounds just won’t heal….
So maybe after completing this course, we could be future mythbusters like Daniel too. Daniel showed us the following clip during our first lectures and challenged us to think, would people behave in the similar way during a fire? Well, let’s put your mythbusting skills to work shall we…..
Jokes aside, one of the most riveting moments of his lecture series was when he showed impactful snippets of the Station nightclub fire. It made me realise the importance of studying human behaviour in fires as the goal is not to only understand how the fire develops to produce the best design to fight it but essentially, it is human lives we are trying to save here so that such tragedies do not happen again.
Being part of IMFSE and sharing my experience through the blog (and as well social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram), intrigued my friends, colleges and my former university (Epoka University). A couple of days ago, a professor of mine contacted me, kindly asking if I could share my steps and achievements after graduating from architecture department at Epoka University. It feels great when your former university wants you to share your experience so other young students can get motivated and believe in their abilities and chase their own dreams.
With this short blog, I would like to remind everyone that education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world and grow both personally and professionally. IMFSE is definitely the best choice, providing the great opportunity to study at top 100 Universities, travel and live in different countries, networking and expanding your friendship cycle.
One of the key reasons why IMFSE is managing to maintain such a high quality are certainly all the people involved in making it happen – from professors and teaching assistants, to all the staff members and of course the students. Recently I had the pleasure of interviewing Professor Grunde Jomaas at the University of Edinburgh, and we talked about IMFSE, fire engineering world and many other interesting topics.
Me: Can you tell me a bit about your background, and how you entered the world of Fire Safety?
Grunde: I was always fascinated by fire, by building fires and bonfires and things like that.
I had gone to Math and Science in High School so a lot of my friends were studying engineering. One friend was actually studying in Haugesund, Norway, where they have a program in fire safety. It seemed like a great program, so I applied, started there, and from there on it really caught me.
Already during the 1st semester in Haugesund, I met lecturer Bjarne Christian Hagen. He was very inspiring, with lots of energy and always being funny and easily approachable. He had studied at University of Maryland, and some friends and I started to look into studying abroad.
Having heard about University of Maryland being mentioned in many chapters of the literature I read, and following Bjarne’s example, I decided to continue my studies at the University of Maryland, and that’s when it really excelled.
In the 1st semester I had Jose Torero for one of my Fire Classes. After the first, very inspiring semester, I started working with Jose, and ended up working with him for 2.5 years in the FETS (Fire Engineering and Thermal Sciences) Lab until I graduated! At UMD, I also took a class called Fire Risk Assessment Methods with Fred Mowrer. It was a lab class, where you conduct fire lab experiments and consequently write lab reports. Somewhere similar to the lab class IMFSE students have in Edinburgh. That’s when I really felt the “Oh I really love this” sensation. The feeling of being able to study things, and then apply and examine your theoretical knowledge and connect things was just great!
Me: How did you get involved with IMFSE?
Grunde: As I have known Jose for some time, I heard about the IMFSE already in the planning phase, and with time I met Patrick and Bart at conferences and through my job at DTU (Technical University of Denmark).
I have also recommended IMFSE to students. A student that I supervised for his BSc thesis at DTU, Rolff Leisted applied to and completed to program. It turns out that was a ‘good investment’ as Rolff came back to study for a PhD at DTU in Copenhagen. Then in 2016 I came to Edinburgh, and I became the local Program Director. I have really enjoyed getting more directly involved with the program and the IMFSE students.
Me: How was the IMFSE experience so far from your perspective and what do you expect from it in future?
Grunde: I’ve truly enjoyed spending time with the students. Currently, I do not teach in the program, but I have the privilege of being in charge of the welcome week. I meet the students, we have social activities. I am the personal tutor to all the students and I assist them with any issues they might have.
Another thing I really enjoyed was the interviews that we did, as it allowed me to interact with many of the very talented people that are applying to the program. And then graduation, I’ve been going to couple of graduations, where I also had the pleasure of giving the commencement speech. Thus, even though I haven’t been with all the cohorts seeing them trough, I have seen sort of both the beginning and the end already. Also, here in Edinburgh, we have PhD students from the program, we see that they succeed.
If you look at where the program is going, currently we are in the process of reapplying for the funding from the EU. We hope and think that there is space for growth in the program.
We have very good students and a very high graduation rate. So far students from approximately 60 countries have been in the program. So, it clearly shows that we attract talents from all over the World and that we’re truly a global program.
Hopefully we will continue to attract talent from all over the World, and we hope that many of the graduates go back to their home countries and contribute to improve and promote fire safety engineering there.
Me: Where is IMFSE as a program in comparison to the rest of the world? How competitive and ready are IMFSE graduates for fire safety engineering careers after obtaining their degrees?
Grunde: The classic answer to that, which is also the true is: we’re second to none. It means that we are not necessarily saying that we are for sure the best, but there is no program that is better. We can compete in quality with anybody at the Masters level.
Obviously, Lund and Edinburgh have very long traditions for Fire Safety, and they have bigger fire safety groups. But the quality that Ghent has with Bart and his colleagues is also impressive. And it is great that they have hired the incredibly talented Ruben van Coile recently.
Furthermore, the universities themselves are all very old and prestigious, with the latter being constantly confirmed in international rankings. It’s important to mention that we were labelled as a success story by the Erasmus program. And this is something that all of us have received recognition for from our respective universities. Of course, we work hard to make the program the quality it is, but we get the support from our respective universities because they believe it is very strong.
Given that the program is a top program, and being recognized as such, it is proven that most students have the job before, or very shortly after graduating. If you want to define a good quality program, you need to see how employable the program’s graduates are, because the students are the product, so that’s a real measure. And, IMFSE students get jobs, and the jobs are often secured before graduation.
Talking about jobs, after studying in 3 or 4 countries over 2 years and interacting with all these various people, you become more open minded and you are not so afraid to apply for a job in a new country – you have the world at your feet!
So, by nature of the program you see opportunities, you become explorers, you become confident in your abilities to manage new settings. And you seek opportunities that you might otherwise not have sought. Hence, it enables you to get a wider range, and quite possibly, more interesting jobs.
Me: What do you think is important for the future career of a fire engineer – which skills and abilities?
Grunde: Rather than just skills, I would say competence is the key.
In undergraduate studies (BSc), the focus is often on knowledge and skills. Once you get on to MSc program, we still teach you some skills – technical skills and knowledge you did not have, but we want you to have confidence in your abilities to face new, open problems. That’s how you implement skills and knowledge into making a good engineering decision and making it work, and that’s how you become truly competent.
So, it’s obviously a need to have this broad foundation that you can understand the problem, and then you can make a competent answer. So, all of the skills and the knowledge makes that you can see a problem from different angles, and I think that’s the strength you gain.
Furthermore, inherently in the program, as you are going to Lund, Gent, Edinburgh, you get different views on things, different teaching styles, and different ways of approaching a problem. Additionally, throughout the program we try to connect you with industry so you really have a feel for how to implement what you learned.
More and more people try to define what competence is. Our program has been developed, both in collaboration with industry and other academics, to ensure that we have the base to provide the competence that will enable you to provide unique, safe solutions to real challenges in the built environment!
Me: What do you think about the fact that IMFSE accepts students with various different engineering and scientific backgrounds?
Grunde: That has to stop immediately!! 😉.
On a more serious note, I think – feeding back to the previous answer, it’s a strength. The way it works in my impression is that the students work very closely in the program. You get to see the view of others, you get to see how all different people think and approach problems.
Fire safety is really a field where you have to work with different stakeholders at all points. You’re not there as a standalone person. You have to work with all the other branches of engineering. I think that coming from different countries and different backgrounds increases the flavour and it ensures that things are not overlooked. If you become more and more narrow-minded, you see only what you see and you can become too focused on certain details, and that’s the easiest way to overlook something.
I think this mix of people enriches the program and makes us question things and repeat constantly one of the important questions, I saw it at board of the dean at DTU,
Could it be otherwise? That’s a good question to think about. My way is not all the time correct. Somebody else with slightly different background might have a better solution.
Me: What do you think about where Fire Safety Engineering is nowadays? How acknowledged is it in the world in general?
Grunde: We’re still fighting to get the appreciation, status and the position that we should have. I’ve heard that in some languages Fire Safety Engineering does not even exist. Some say: “In my home language that would be a made-up word. People wouldn’t even know what that is.” From a global perspective that gives you an insight.
The statistics (http://www.worldlifeexpectancy.com/cause-of-death/fires/by-country/) also show that there are countries, in different places in the world, that have a factor of 10-20 times (or even more) higher fatality rates than more developed countries. So, there is obviously a lot of work to be done.
Fire safety engineers are often seen as somebody that only adds cost and doesn’t add value. That could actually be seen as the definition of not getting the recognition. Many people don’t see the meaning of what we do until an accident happens.
However, if we weren’t doing our work, we would have accidents and huge fires happening much more often. Of course, some recent events have put a focus on fire safety as a field and that there is a lack of competence. It is our job to inform politicians and all stakeholders in the built environment that we have competence and we can supply competence. As such, we need to get recognition as the ones who provide the competence in Fire Safety Engineering. And that should be done through education at universities. And, as mentioned we provide a first-rate fire safety engineering education.
Me: Is Fire Engineering being developed and researched as much as it should be? What about the less developed world where fire engineering is on quite a low level. How could we impact that?
Grunde: The program is obviously trying to impact that, and any educated person has a responsibility to share his or her knowledge. Some of the knowledge we see as basic is not available in many countries. For example, the severity of fires in the textile industry in Bangladesh and in Informal settlement can be significantly reduced with existing knowledge. In fact, we have a project entitled “Improving the Fire Resilience of Informal Settlements to Fire” (IRIS-Fire) at the University of Edinburgh (https://www.iris-fire.com/). That’s a way to contribute. Actually, one of the PhD students in that project is an IMFSE alumnus, Mohamed Beshir. In general, when we are in education we pledge to share our knowledge. We should share it with the whole world, and research wise we should try to follow up. There is simple or basic knowledge that could go far in a lot of countries.
Me: Any message for the current and the future IMFSE students?
Grunde: Keep being the good ambassadors. Keep talking to people and mention the program. You also have the role to spread it to the world. Some of you are maybe the one of very few in your country doing fire safety. So, keep spreading the word about the quality that program has.
But also, do well and keep doing well. The program is approaching its 10 years anniversary; thus we’re getting to the point where some of the early graduates will assume leadership positions. Once you moved up in the rank, remember also where you came from, and that the IMFSE program probably played a small part in your success. Keep recommending the program to people because that’s how we build up the pyramid. We need numbers. We need more students and more graduates. Because there is plenty of fire safety engineering challenges in the world that is in need of competent fire safety engineers like the IMFSE graduates!
Me: Tell me 3 first words that come to your mind when you think of IMFSE
Grunde: Bart Merci, Jose Torero, and international quality education!
During the Orientation Week, there were a lot of interesting and entertaining activities. But the most funniest one was time spent in Vattenhallen Science Center of Lund University.
All IMFSE students were divided to 5 groups randomly for better interaction between Ghent-Edinburgh teams. Each group has the same plan for scientific experiments, but the order was different. The task of each group was to collect as many points from each job as possible.
My team started from the game called Digiwall. The aim of that funny game was to keep “the egg” from falling to the ground. And it was really-really hard! We barely gained a few points.
Then we continue our curios scientific competition, trying to “accelerate the proton”. Here we succeeded and understood the principle of CERN Hadron Collider in France.
The next step was Puzzle. We needed to collect the letter T from the scattered wooden details. I don’t know the letter of which alphabet we collected with my team, but it certainly was not the Latin T. So we failed 🙂
Then there was challenge to identify and to name human’s organs using some kind of MRI device. And, no, Giorgos, you were not supposed to lay there :).
In the Waterfall Room we needed to arrange plastic dams in such a way to achieve higher level of electricity as it happens in hydroelectric station.
After solving puzzles, there was a scientific presentation , which is designed for schoolchildren. But future fire safety engineers almost squealed with delight when the “wizard-presenter” showed us tricks with fire, liquid nitrogen and marshmallows!
Despite the fact that after the presentation the results of our competitions were summed up, no one was sad, because the aim of such kind of event was the real team-building and strengthening of already close ties of IMFSE family!
And our adaptation to Sweden has been improved by invitation of BIIF, the student association for fire engineers in Lund, to play Pool with Swedish Fire students. It was also awesome, funny and enthralling evening!
So, to conclude, team building is very important and an incredibly useful thing if you want to know your teammates from another angle and to spend time with pleasure and benefit.
For someone who lives on the other side of the globe and on a country isolated by the sea, IMFSE opened an opportunity to explore the world like no other. Contrary to my perception of Europe as being relatively expensive, travelling is actually affordable once you discover the tactic. After knowing the schedule of the exams, a friend and I planned for an Eastern European backpacking holiday for the Christmas break starting from December 24, 2017 to January 3, 2018.
Going on a vacation after the exams is an excellent way to relax and recharge for the upcoming semester. So, I packed my things and went on an adventure I have never done before. The journey started in Prague, the capital city of Czech Republic. The city has a well-preserved medieval architecture and it felt like the olden times. I even got to visit the Klementinum, considered by a lot of bloggers as the most beautiful library in the world. And of course, who will miss the Prague Castle which sits on top of a hill which you can see from almost anywhere in the city. My first Christmas in Europe and outside of my country was well-spent in Prague.
Prague, Czech Republic 🇨🇿
The next stop is Vienna, Austria. This city is so elegant that it almost felt like I was dreaming. There is a certain style that is so unique to this city. The accommodation is relatively more expensive but I was quite surprised by the food which is quite affordable for a city which consistently rank among the most livable cities in the world. My favorite part of Vienna, apart from the delicious Wiener Schnitzel, is the Schӧnbrunn Palace, the former imperial summer residence. One word: MAJESTIC.
Vienna, Austria 🇦🇹
Next on the itinerary is Bratislava, Slovakia which greeted us with a snowy but sunny day. This part of the trip is so memorable because it was my first time to play in the snow literally like a kid. The city is not as huge as the previous two so you can visit almost anything in the city in just one day which made it less tiring and I did not feel like I need to rush to see everything. As usual, the castle sits on top of a hill and it will certainly catch your attention. But as a civil engineer, the Most Slovenského Národného Povstania (Bridge of the Slovak National Uprising) or the UFO Bridge left me amazed because of the UFO-shaped structure in its pylon.
Bratislava, Slovakia 🇸🇰
The next destination is Budapest, Hungary where most of the attractions line the historic Danube River. The city is already beautiful during the day but wait for the sun to set and see the whole city light up in bright yellow at night. This jaw-dropping scenery of the whole city is best viewed from Buda Castle which also stands out on its own, a glimmering castle on top a hill. I got to welcome the New Year in front of the marvelous Hungarian Parliament Building, looking at all the fireworks across the city.
Budapest, Hungary 🇭🇺
After Hungary is the Croatian capital, Zagreb. Same as Bratislava, Zagreb is a small city. One of the things I like the most about Zagreb is the traditional firing of the Grič Cannon every day at the Lotrščak Tower to mark the midday. But, the best part is the food trip! Food here is so affordable that we were able to try five different traditional dishes. Zagreb is definitely your one-stop food trip heaven.
Zagreb, Croatia 🇭🇷
Last destination is the small city of Ljubljana, Slovenia. The day started with a foggy tour to Ljubljana Castle which seems so magical that I felt like I was inside a Harry Potter movie. Going down the hill, the sun started to shine and the colorful city architecture which resembles that of Vienna greeted us. It was amazing knowing that Slovenians value their language more as a unifier than any other historic person. That is the reason why they have their national poet’s monument in the center of the city. No wonder why they appear to me as very happy people.
Ljubljana, Slovenia 🇸🇮
I went back to Belgium bringing with me a new perspective that I got from this tour, that you should not box yourself but explore the world around you. You learn cultures. You meet a lot of people. You share a part of yourself to others. From an anonymous quote, “We travel not to escape life but for life not to escape us.”
The population of Lund is 89,000 people, and the number of students of Lund University is 41,000. So that we can make sure that the university and student life occupy most of the city! Yesterday Farah, Silvia and me decided to go shopping and went to the Nova Lund shopping center on foot. We went through the whole city and this way, including bypassing the tram lines under construction, took us just over an hour! It is also funny, that Lund is such a close society that we usually meet our seniors – Alejandra, Juan and Melchior wherever we go.
It was very nice to meet with our IMFSE Edinburgh team again in classrooms. During the Orientation week, the mentors introduced us to the university and its surroundings.
Meeting with people from Ghent Crew was also a very special moment! We will definitely become good friends and cohesive group.
Also it is fantastic to live all together in one place, most of us were settled in Pålsjöäng (hope, we will be able to spell it correctly by June). So that now we can share some dinners and little parties together vey often!
Dinner at Tanveer’s place
Fire Party in Pålsjöäng
There was not a day that someone from Edinburgh crew did not say how much he misses Edinburgh. The capital of Scotland took very large and important place in our hearts! But we all know that in some months we will also say with sadness: “Oh, I am going to miss Lund so much! I don’t want to leave this place”.
December was a very nice and festive month in Gent, of course after exams, and we as IMFSE group enjoy it by celebrating Giorgio’s late birthday and the end of exam period, which was quite intense let’s say. We had a group dinner at our favorite place Amadeus (which for me is the best place, I’ ll tell you later why :D).
Our classmate from the local master, Bert had prepared for us a day trip to visit some historical cities starting with the city of Ypres, an ancient city, dating back to the first century. A very interesting fact was the Ypres battle is one of the most important battles of the WWI. Ypres occupied a strategic position during the First World War because it stood in the path of Germany’s planned sweep across the rest of Belgium and into France from the north. The neutrality of Belgium was guaranteed by Britain; Germany’s invasion of Belgium brought the British Empire into the war. The German army surrounded the city on three sides, bombarding it throughout much of the war, for this reason, the city has enormous cemeteries of soldiers from the different part of the world.
After visiting and honoring their graveyards we went to Bert’s hometown, De Haan where we had the chance to enter the firefighter’s station where Bert is youngest firefighter volunteer. It was so cool to see all kind of trucks and we could sit in them. After this amazing surprise visit to the station we head to Bert’s house where we met his family, it was a lovely dinner prepared from them.
Everybody left for the winter holidays, Ines, Balsa, Giorgos and the Kiwi (Jemie) went back home and Gerard had a tour in central and eastern Europe, so I was all alone in Gent and the office that I work for was closed during this holidays so I thought maybe will be fun working somewhere in Gent and meet new people and have new friends. So I had to think which place I would like to work and of course, if they were going to accept me or not. Oh well, I did not think a lot about my choice and guess where I went to ask for a part-time job and I started immediately, Amadeus (you remember the place with the ribs competition and who can eat more). So I started working as a bartender since I don’t really know how to speak Duch (let’s say I don’t know Duch at all). It was an amazing two weeks experience, during the mornings I had the chance to visit Gent and be a tourist around the city and during the evenings I was a bartender in Amadeus.
The New Year’s Eve was very special, even why I was working. After the restaurant was closed all the team was gathered and started to celebrate the new year, eating, drinking and dancing. It was a different kind of New Year for me since I was used to celebrating this holidays with my family and close friends, but now I have new friends and it was a very fun experience!
Christmas with IMFSE family and New Year with Amadeus one!