On a sunny March day Brian and I biked to the fire department of Maastricht to conduct an interview with the officer of duty and specialist in fire prevention and risk management, Jos Loijens. We had met him at one of the ‘Get Involved’ fairs at the Student Service Center, where a playfully informative video was being shown (A Different Night Out, watch here). When he told us that reaching students was considerably tough for them, we offered to do this article.
As we entered the fire department, it seemed like a very gloomy building, but that was just the first perception. Once we stood on the roof terrace with its rooftop pond, complete with little ducks and plants, we appreciated this very unique building and its architecture.
As we sipped our coffee in the sun, Jos told us that the pond on the roof was initially meant as a water reserve for the fire trucks. However after a while it became clear that with whole duck families settling down and using the pond, the water wasn’t clean enough. But that wasn’t a problem, as the firemen on duty started feeding the ducks, very adorable!
As to what Jos had to say about student safety and fire prevention in student houses. He explained that when students come to Maastricht and live away from their parents for the first time, they tend to enjoy themselves a lot. That’s something that Brian and I could definitely agree to. The freedom and beauty of a new city, with new friends and (seemingly) no rules are what make student life so wonderful and liberating!
However, the other side of the coin is somewhat less amazing… Reduced safety in student houses, stolen property, robberies and other incidents that all of us would rather avoid, are what can occur. Especially when you live with many housemates, the risk of any of the aforementioned taking place only increases.
What to do?
Jos told us a story of a student house in the Rechtstraat, where a fire started in the kitchen. Of course there were several apartments on the floors above, forcing the students to crawl into the gutter on the roof until the firemen came to save them. Why didn’t these students know that a fire had started in time to put it out? Because there was no smoke alarm!
I know, I know, smoke alarms are annoying. We’ve all been irritated endlessly by an alarm with nearly empty batteries, making the torture techniques used by secret agencies look tame. However, Jos told us that FIRE ALARMS SAVE LIVES! It’s not something to be taken lightly, as he also told us that too many casualties happen due to lack of this essential household friend.
The firemen in Maastricht work closely with the student police officer, Paul Vermin, because fire prevention and burglary deterrence go hand in hand. Within one of the taskforces, a behavioral scientist was added, to provide more insight in how students go about their own safety.
Of course, students aren’t the only ones that can do more to promote a safe student life. The owners of the student houses, our landlords, can do more than they usually do. When more than 5 people live in the same house, there are certain municipal rules that the landlords have to abide by.
However, we all know that some landlords are less willing to make sure that their tenants’ safety is secure.
In the scenario where your landlord isn’t making sure that your house is safe, open a dialogue with the other tenants to positively encourage your landlord to start making the house in order. This is the first advice that Jos wants to give to students! However, when that attempt proves to be futile, go to the competent authority: the municipality!
If you have questions about your safety and what you can do to improve it, don’t hesitate to contact the local fire department via the following email-address: firstname.lastname@example.org
For a checklist of things you can improve AS YOU READ THIS:
- Fire alarms?
- Order and tidiness of your room?
- Too many extension cables?
- Ash trays?
- Kitchen, and especially gas?
Other things that the firemen of Maastricht have dealt with are not fire-related:
- A few students decided to have a party in their student house. The rooms were situated on the first floor. A lot of people attended, which made the rooms overcrowded. Not only was this not safe with regard to a possible fire, but the weight of the students combined made the floor collapse. Suddenly a bunch of students had entered the downstairs neighbor’s apartment in a very unpleasant way.
- A few students lived near the Heugemerweg in a house with a furnace. This heating device is known for its unsafe properties. The students were hanging their clothes on a wire connected to this heater. After a while the lever on the furnace broke and a big amount of carbon monoxide was released in the house. The students had to be taken to hospital, after which they decided to get a CO-monitor, a safe decision!
After the interview Jos showed us the rest of the fire department, complete with garage and training places of the firemen. Very interesting and inspiring to see!
The practice horse you see on one of these pictures is the first one in the Netherlands. Jos, a horse lover, made sure that one would come so the firemen could practice for a case when a horse would be stuck under a heavy object, it happens more often than you think!
We hope you enjoyed this article. To see more pictures that were made during this day, click here.
Interview and article by Ashika Baan, Photos by Brian Megens