Inspecting the inspectors

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Inspecting the inspectors

Fire authorities recently conducted surprise inspections for a week starting May 8 on 224 large buildings in Gyeonggi, which recently passed safety tests, and discovered faults in 67 percent of them.

Fire extinguishers and emergency equipment failed to work and some of them were also not equipped with mandatory evacuation ropes and other escape systems. Some of them even falsified safety documentation. Such disregard for safety could jeopardize lives.

Among 27 medical facilities, 19 places, or 70 percent, were found to be deficient in emergency preparedness. The government has embarked on safety examinations across the country of public places, ferries, hospitals and public transportation facilities since the April 16 sinking of the Sewol ferry. But the inspections themselves appear to have been sloppy.

The inspectors’ checklists covers more than 200 categories, but in one place the inspection took less than a day. What is the use of such inspections if they cannot ensure the safety of the general public? A fire in a nursing home in South Jeolla on Wednesday killed at least 21 patients. The number of casualties mounted because prompt evacuations of the patients, many older than 70, did not take place. And yet the hospital reported that it conducts routine fire drills for patients and staff.

Its safety assessment was not questioned by the authorities. Such complacency and careless inspection can cause major casualties from accidents that otherwise could have been minor. The government is advised to spend sufficient time and resources to meticulously re-examine large public places and popular facilities.

In areas that are used daily by people, safety equipment and infrastructure such as emergency exits, fire extinguishers, fire shutters and smoke preventive systems must be fully working. Otherwise people won’t feel safe anywhere in this country. The safety checks must be double-checked by other supervisors. Repeated inspections and strict quality control can prevent mishaps from mismanagement and supervisory laxity.

Large buildings, schools and multipurpose venues should be required to conduct regular fire drills. We must bear with a little inconvenience in order to have safety awareness come naturally, making our country a more reliable place to live.

JoongAng Ilbo, May 30, Page 30

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