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.