At Least 12 Killed in Shanghai High Rise Apartment Fire
Monday, November 15 2010 @ 09:55 AM EST
Contributed by: Don Winner
Editor's Comment: This fire engulfed the entire building. In the amateur videos available on YouTube, you can clearly see an affect known as "lapping" - meaning the fire from lower floors breaks out through the windows and "laps" up to the higher floors. The heat from the flames breaks the windows of the apartments above and sets the contents on fire, and the process continues on up the building. Note the intensity of this fire, and the only thing that is burning are the contents of the apartments. The structure is poured cement reinforced with steel, typical of every apartment building in Panama. And that's why I'm posting this report here - this fire could easily have happened in Panama City, and as a matter of fact I feel strongly that eventually a similar fire will occur here, it's only a matter of time.
What To Do In This Situation? For the most part, the central stairway is supposed to be your primary escape route. If a fire breaks out in your building and you are below the fire floor, use the stairs to quickly evacuate the building. If you are in an apartment building and the fire floor is below you, then attempt to evacuate using the central stairway. There will be some smoke and heat in the stairway as you pass through the fire floor, but hopefully only one or two floors will be involved early in the fire before it fully develops, and maybe you can literally run down through the stairs to get out. However, if the smoke and heat are too much to get past, then climb to the roof. Normally there will be a prevailing wind blowing the smoke and heat one way - you should go to the opposite corner of the building - into the wind. At that point all you can do is wait for rescue. However, just making it to the roof doesn't mean you're safe, as shown in today's fire:
- Smoke Blocks Helicopter Rescue as Apartment Fire Kills Eight in Shanghai
- By Bloomberg News - Firefighters entered a Shanghai apartment building where at least 12 people died in a blaze to put out remaining flames and search for survivors, Xinhua News Agency said, citing unidentified municipal officials.
- The fire was under control at 6:30 p.m. local time today, more than four hours after it started, Xinhua said. More than 90 people were injured, the official news agency said.
- Scaffolding for renovation work on the 28-story building in Shanghai’s central Jing’an district caught fire around 2 p.m., Xinhua said, citing witnesses. Fifty-two people were sent to Jing’an Hospital, nine seriously injured, according to CCTV.
- Thick smoke prevented three helicopters from rescuing people trapped on the burning building’s roof, Xinhua reported. Firefighters hosed water from the top of a nearby building to douse flames on upper floors unreachable by equipment on their trucks, the news agency said.
- A total of 156 families live in the building, and 100 residents were evacuated, Xinhua said. Most of the injured were elderly and children at home during working hours, CCTV said.
Contain From Above, Fight From Below: The standard practice for fire fighters in these kinds of fires is to first contain the fire from above, meaning to insert firemen with equipment and hoses (using the stand pipe) to keep the fire from "lapping" up the building and spreading further up the structure. Once they establish control over the spread, then other teams will attack the fire from below, extinguishing the flames as the work their way up. If you look at this video above, you can see that there's more "white smoke" coming out of the structure, which is actually steam from the water firefighters are applying to fight the fire. Normally when you see thick black smoke and hot angry yellow flames, the fire is burning out of control. When there's lots of this kind of "white" smoke then the firefighters are at least working on it and trying to get the upper hand. Often times when you're watching a fire like this from the outside, you can see it go back and forth from "hot" to "white" as the battle between rages. And while some firemen work the battle the blaze, other teams (early on) should be working to evacuate the residents and employees of the building. And now ask yourself - do you think the Panamanian fire department is skilled and equipped to handle this kind of a fire in an efficient manner? Or, will they be completely overwhelmed like the guys in Shanghai were. That was a rhetorical question. They have never (not even once) practiced a helicopter roof insert of a high-angle team in even simulated conditions - much less a real live scenario, at night, in weather, etc.
Got Homeowners Insurance? Recently a young Air Force Staff Sergeant lost everything in an apartment fire in Omaha, Nebraska. He had just moved in to his new place, and this homeowner's insurance policy had not yet been transferred to his new pad, meaning he was not covered, and meaning he lost everything. Here in Panama you can (and should) have a homeowner's insurance policy to protect the value of the contents of your apartment in case of fire. As usual I always recommend by good friend Kevin Bradley for anything and everything having to do with insurance in the Republic of Panama. You can visit his website or send him an email (email@example.com). Recently Kevin posted the following contact information for him and his fully bilingual team:
- Kevin = firstname.lastname@example.org 6674-1063 cel. 322-1603 direct
- Carmen = email@example.com 6613-1063 cel. 322-1605 direct
- Rosita = firstname.lastname@example.org 6517-9870 cel. 322-1612 direct
- Charlene = email@example.com 322-1008
Copyright 2010 by Don Winner for Panama-Guide.com. Go ahead and use whatever you like as long as you credit the source. Salud.