One Last Lund

The semester in Lund, same as last semester in Ghent or in Edinburgh, went by so fast that it seems like everything happened in the blink of an eye or a snap of the fingers. Now, the first-year IMFSE students are not “fresh” anymore as what the word freshmen suggests. A list of the new batch of students were released last April and will be going to embark on a journey of a lifetime, the same as what we are currently experiencing which will soon end for the graduating second-year students this 25th of June in Ghent.

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Levels of winter in Lund

We have seen Lund in its darkest, coldest, and most depressing days. However, we have seen it in its brightest, liveliest, and most vividly colorful days as well. We arrived in Lund during the winter –  excited to meet new classmates from two constituent universities where we started: Ghent University and the University of Edinburgh. We attended classes together during the winter when the weather and ambiance made it so hard for us to get out of bed. We did so too during the spring when the sun made us want to go out of the classroom and bask under its heat.

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Group photos of various moods: formal, serious, and competitive

We learned the complexity of human behavior during fires. We experimented the effect of certain parameters in the properties of a flame. We studied the theories behind computational fluid dynamics and simulated several fire scenarios. We discussed what humans value, quantified the expected consequences when these values are negatively affected, and provided ways on how to minimize risks. We visited firefighter’s training centers, research facilities and consultancy companies.

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Bonding moments (I should say that I like the bottom picture!)

We did all of that while enjoying the company of each other through study groups, travels, movie nights, karaoke in the laptop, Uno games, dinners, barbeques and some were even “Dancing in the Dark”. Happening right now is the FIFA World Cup in Russia, who is going to forget the IMFSE Sprinklers? Our motto is “If we cannot score, just do not let the other team score.”, which we were not able to do. HAHAHA! Our batch experienced what, according to the news, is one of the coldest winters in Europe. Thanks to the “Beast from the East”. Our batch was also very lucky to have seen Lundakarnavalen, an event that happens in Lund only every four years.

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We just want to have fun!

Since it is summer break, we parted ways. Some went home, some moved to a different country. As I was carrying my luggage towards the train station, I was just gazing at the small buildings while thinking of all the good memories (and the weight of my luggage, haha!) that we had here when we considered Lund our second home for a good six months. Tack så mycket, Lund!

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IMFSE Sprinklers!

Sunny days are here. Suddenly, everything has color and everyone gets out of their hibernation. What is the best activity to enjoy the warm weather than to play sports under the sun? The organization of fire protection engineering and risk management students hosted a football tournament last May 13. The IMFSE crew was invited to participate and we named our team “Sprinklers”.

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The IMFSE Sprinklers! (Photo Courtesy: Ayyappa Mohan)

To be honest, the IMFSE group came unprepared. Everyone was shocked to see the Swedish teams in full gears. However, that did not intimidate and stop us from enjoying the event and scoring some points. Thanks to our star players, Jamie Crum and Bogdan Albulescu, and our goalkeeper, Andrei Lazouski. We battled with four other teams. And although we did not win any game, we proudly wore our IMFSE shirts with the flame logo on top of our hearts. The spirit of camaraderie was felt from everyone with all of the cheers and shouts. If there was a best cheering team award, it would have been for IMFSE Sprinklers, haha!

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The Sprinklers just having a good time together. (Photo Courtesy: Ayyappa Mohan)

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Enjoying fika! (Photo Courtesy: Ayyappa Mohan)

In the end, everyone enjoyed and to quote my classmate Bogdan, “…it was the best since I am on this program.” Now, on to more challenges with blazing hearts, IMFSE Sprinklers!

The Future is BRIGHT and HOT!

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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

IMFSE: Informative Methods of Fieldwork, Simulation and Experiment

There are plenty of ways to gain knowledge. For sure, a classroom setting full of theories and equations is not enough for holistic learning. For what is knowledge if it will not be applied? This first period of the semester in Lund University did not fail to give us the avenue to learn outside the conventional method. Professors gave us tasks to be worked on independently, a chance to find out by ourselves the answers to the questions that we have.

Our course about Human Behavior in Fire tackled the psychology behind why humans act the way we do in disaster situations especially fire. One area of this course is about pedestrian movement. This subject area, same as human behavior in general, is random in nature although we can still find values statistically to quantify it such as speed, density, etc. Data about human movement is very little so in our class we designed a field experiment to observe people and collect data. Our group went to the city center of Lund – cameras set up, sat in a bench for a good three hours under the sun to at least keep warm on a 2°C-weather, and started classifying people groups and quantifying their movement.

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For our Advanced Fire Dynamics, each group was tasked to formulate their own scientific question and have it tested in the Fire Laboratory’s 1/3 ISO room cone calorimeter setup. Challenging your group’s hypotheses and seeing trends about what you are observing is both relieving and fulfilling at the same time. While waiting for the room to cool down for the next round of the experiment, we sat in front of the monitor and watched videos of real and experimental fire. Firefighters, although they have trainings, sometimes still get into trouble with fire because of its very unpredictable nature. I guess it is not bad to say that burning things for science is actually fun because this is how we study our enemy and find ways to defeat it.

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Solving equations longhand is quite time-consuming even for just a simple problem. How much more is a very complex one? The answer is in technology through the use of computers. Simulation of Fires in Enclosures is another interesting course where we learn the theory behind fire modelling and apply it by coding several fire scenarios. I might add that programming also takes a lot of time but at least more complex problems can be solved, an obvious limitation of hand calculations. However, always remember that garbage in equals garbage out, that computer programs are just tools to help us make things easier and faster and we still have to go back to the books to explain the results.

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In the end, the classroom is not the only place where we could learn. Be exposed to the world around you. Feed your curiosities. Explore and discover things.

Keep the Flame Burning!

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IMFSE says hi to everyone! (Photo by Elise)

When we want to maintain or improve something, we have to constantly check on it. When we want to increase heat release rate, add more fuel (not always the case though such as for ventilation-controlled fire, HAHAHA!). For IMFSE, February is the time of the year when professors and students convene at Lund University for the Annual Management Board Meeting. Professors Bart Merci, Grunde Jomaas, Patrick van Hees, Ruben van Coile, Enrico Ronchi and IMFSE Administrator Elise Meerburg joined the students in discussion about the strengths of the program and suggestions for improvement.

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Gorgeous student representatives (guys, free dinner will do, thanks! HAHAHA)

Overall, IMFSE got a positive feedback from the students – topnotch universities, variety in teaching, mobility to different countries, international cultural experience and new field of study. No doubt that this program was considered a “success story” by the European Commission. Even if the program is considered successful, the management still wants to strive to make it better edition after edition. The professors also discussed several thesis topics and the strength of the partner and associated universities towards research. Surely, there are still a lot more to learn about fire safety engineering and everyone of us is excited to engage ourselves in contributing towards this growing body of knowledge.

After the meeting, we got to hangout with the professors at O’Learys. We had some drinks and we got to play shuffle board with them. The best battle was between Team Guacamole – Masala (Silvia and Dheeraj) and Team Ghendinburgh (Bart and Grunde). I have to say that the professors did well, after a couple of tries, they learned the physics immediately. But I guess, students become more powerful outside class, HAHAHA! Some played basketball arcade and the results of the battle between two second year students will be kept as a secret forever, HAHAHA!

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Students won!

In the end, it was a really a productive and fun-filled night. IMFSE, already a success story, will continue to improve itself for the next generation of students. Let’s keep the flame burning in our hearts and not in our buildings, HAHAHA!

The Quickly Responding Firefighters

This incident happened less than a month ago when we moved to Sweden for our second semester in Lund University. I am staying in a corridor room in one of the university accommodations, the only one from IMFSE staying here. It was just my second night here in Lund when a very loud familiar sound broke the silence of the midnight.

For some unknown reason, the fire alarm turned on. Everyone in the corridor was almost asleep when we heard it so we peeked out of the door and looked at each other puzzled. As an FSE student, I tried to look for the source in the kitchen and the fire extinguisher to stop the fire if there is any at its growth stage. But there was none. So, we asked each other if this is just a drill or a real fire scenario and it took us a long time to actually evacuate outside the building. After about 15 minutes out in the cold only wearing pajamas (around 25 minutes after the alarm started), actual firefighters came in to our surprise. THIS MUST BE SOMETHING REAL. They checked the rooms and gave us an assurance that we are fire-safe.

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This is when I saw the different things we discuss in our Human Behavior in Fire subject. First is misinterpretation. A lot misinterpreted the alarm and that is the reason for the long time before evacuation and for some who did not even bother to go out. Second is investment. Some did not evacuate because they are so invested in the activity that they are doing. One even went inside the shower to take a bath. Third is gathering of important items. There are some who went back to take a jacket and put shoes on. One was carrying a cup of tea. Most importantly, the event also validated the thing we discussed about competitive behavior and panic, that they are just myths in a fire evacuation and despite being in such a situation, everyone remained calm.

However, apart from applying what I learned from our HBiF subject, I learned a deeper realization. Most people would still take for granted the sound of an alarm, that they are still not knowledgeable enough of proper evacuation. I cannot know for sure if they will still act that way if they saw an actual fire. But I can say that we still have a long way to go to educate people about fire safety.

Fortunately, everything went fine. It was a chance to meet each other for the first time, haha! With the quick response of the firefighters, I can say that Lund takes fire safety seriously. The university is also giving us interesting lectures not just about fire but also about human behavior. After all, the main goal of FSE is to save lives. Luckily for me, I got some hands-on experience from this incident. In terms of fire safety education, Lund is indeed one of the best places to be.

Beyond Belgium

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.”