A U.S. jetliner carrying 155 people lost power in engines from hitting a flock of birds and started crashing after taking off from New York. The pilots chose to make an emergency water landing in the Hudson River, which had an almost zero success rate. This accident, which took place in January 2009, is known as the “Miracle on the Hudson” as no casualties were reported. But it could not have been possible without the experienced handling of the situation by the pilot, who had logged almost 20,000 total flight hours for 42 years, and the efforts of the rescue workers, who pulled all passengers out of the icy-cold water in just 24 minutes.
A 7.1-magnitude earthquake hit New Zealand’s second largest city Christchurch in September 2010, causing only two injuries. It is in contrast to a 7.0-magnitude earthquake that struck Haiti in January of same year as it claimed the lives of more than 220,000 people. The Prime Minister of New Zealand said it was “miraculous” that nobody was killed. It was strict construction standards that saved the lives of New Zealand people. The country drafted provisions on earthquake-resistant design after a 7.8-magnitude earthquake killed 256 people in 1931.
The basic elements of preventing a fire catastrophe include fire alarms, sprinklers and firewalls, and quick response from firefighters. A massive fire that engulfed an apartment in Ulsan on the eve of Hangeul Day reported no deaths since basic elements were met. A fire that broke out on the middle floors spread throughout the 33-story building in an instant. The residents evacuated the building quickly as the fire alarm and sprinklers were activated, and firefighters were quickly deployed to the scene after a resident had reported a fire saying there was a smell of burning.
There was a massive fire in the 24-story Grenfell Tower in London and in the 86-story Torch Tower in Dubai in June and August of 2017, respectively. A fire broke out on middle floors and in the middle of the night in both cases. The difference was fire alarms alerted residents and building staff knocked on doors to ensure evacuation in the case of Torch Tower. The fire did not spread rapidly thanks to the firewall in the building. The fire was extinguished in two and a half hours and there were no reported deaths. In Grenfell Tower, which was a public housing tower, however, there were no fire alarms, no building staff to ensure evacuation, or firewalls. Nearly 80 people died.
The exterior of a building is also important. The fire at Grenfell Tower raced up the combustible exterior of the building. The exterior of the Ulsan apartment is made of aluminum composite panel often used in high-rise residential and commercial buildings. It appears the fire spread rapidly up the building’s exterior because the resin, which is used between the panels as a cushioning material, burns easily. There are 4,792 high-rise buildings that have over 30 floors across the country. Aerial ladder trucks can only be extended to the height of 23 floors and find it difficult to find open space accessible to fire in cities. It is important that buildings are made of incombustible construction materials, and are equipped with fire alarms, sprinklers, and firewalls. Winter is the season when the largest number of fire-related deaths is reported throughout a year.