That is the caption that I put on my latest Facebook profile picture taken during the 1st-year IMFSE students’ trip to Borås, Sweden. So, what is with the caption? It goes like this. Honestly, when I was choosing between two international programs a year ago, I am having some doubt whether to go with the IMFSE or the other one. I shared about that in my first two blogs. Questions like “What will I do after this?”, “Is there a good job opportunity waiting for me after I graduate?”, and “Is it a good strategy to take a specialized field to win in my career as an engineer?” are always in the back of my mind. During this trip, I could remember telling one of my classmates “Fire engineering is indeed alive!” after seeing several career paths that we as fire engineering students could embark ourselves into after this program.
IMFSE’s typical Thursday morning is either a lecture or a seminar. But the Thursday that is April 26 is a different one. The whole class decided to visit two world-class FSE facilities in Borås, Sweden. We first visited the Södra Älvsborgs Räddningstjänstförbund (Södra Älvsborg’s Rescue Service Federation), an emergency rescue training facility which has trained not only Swedish firefighters but also firefighters from nearby countries and from countries as far as Australia and Malaysia.
The visit there started with a good fika which filled up our stomach after a four-hour drive from Lund. We then proceeded to a lecture room. From the short lecture, I realized that learning how to put on a rescue suit as fast as possible and how to operate a rescue equipment is not the only competency that a firefighter should have. A good firefighter should also have substantial knowledge of fire dynamics so that he/she will be able to fight fire properly and not to aggravate the situation. After the lecture, we went to try an armalite-like water gun with ultra-high pressure than can reach up to 300 bars. Given the pressure, I was expecting that it there would be a huge recoil force but to my surprise, it is very light. That equipment is better than the Cobra in terms of handling because the backward force by the Cobra is higher and it will need at least 2 people to operate and support this force. With everything that I saw and heard from the training facility, I am giving a salute to all firefighters who risk their lives in order to save more lives.
Our next stop is RISE or the Research Institute of Sweden where we were toured by one of our lecturers in Advanced Fire Dynamics, Haukur Ingason. After having a sumptuous lunch, we went to a conference room where several PhD students and researchers of RISE discussed their studies to us. The tour started afterwards. I was astonished by how massive and how high-tech the laboratories of this state-of-the-art research institute are. There is one big hall solely dedicated for the 50-MW cone calorimeter used to test big fires such as a vehicle fire. The next room is my favorite – a structural fire safety laboratory with big furnaces used to test structural elements and facades. This room comes with a bonus: good party music. After that, we went to the materials laboratory where the fire properties of several materials are experimented. This is where I saw in actual the sets of equipment that we discussed in our Explosions and Industrial Fire Safety course last semester in Ghent University.
With everything that I learned from this tour, I can say that fire safety engineering, as specialized as it may be, is as relevant as other engineering disciplines are. The way technology evolves very fast makes it more of an interesting subject especially with the global trend of using other forms of energy to replace the conventional fossil fuel which has been around for centuries and is expected to be depleted in a couple of decades. Fire safety engineering also applies to new inventions that sooner or later will be adapted to our buildings and homes. It also applies to natural and man-made disasters brought by rapid changes in our climate. Indeed, the future is bright and hot in FSE!