NATIONAL

Emergency exits or doors to death?

By Kim Da-sol
  • Published : May 18, 2017 - 16:20
  • Updated : May 18, 2017 - 18:48
Concerns are growing over dangers posed by emergency exits with no balcony or ladder after another man accidentally fell to his death in Chuncheon, Gangwon Province. 

The accident, which occurred earlier this month, has reignited calls for safety measures.

Police said that the deceased 58-year-old man, identified by the surname Kim, opened an emergency exit door on the second floor of a building in search for a toilet. However, he fell from 3 meters above ground as there were no balcony or emergency stairs installed outside the exit door.

An emergency exit door is not installed without an emergency staircase or ladder. (Yonhap)

Families of victims said it does not make sense that the emergency exits in a four-story building were unequipped with stairways or ladders connecting to the ground, making it impossible for people to escape if an accident happens.

“If there was at least a handrail or balcony outside the emergency exit door, my husband would not have just fallen off and died,” said Kim’s wife. “How can public officials approve the safety of this kind of building? This is nonsense.”

According to current law, it is not mandatory for building constructors to attach an emergency staircase or guardrail outside of emergency exits.

Under the Special Act on the Safety Control of Publicly Used Establishments, a building meets safety standards if its occupants have access to “safety facilities such as fire-fighting facilities, emergency exits and evacuation passageways inside a place of business.”

Although these emergency exits could pose a threat, those who lock emergency exit doors will be fined up to 3 million won ($2,660).

“Those emergency exits are no different to doorways to cliff. Safety and construction laws should be revised accordingly to make sure people inside a building can use exits practically when they need to escape,” said Lee Young-ju a professor of fire emergency management at University of Seoul.

An emergency exit door is not installed without an emergency staircase or ladder. (Yonhap)

There has been a number of accidents caused by unsafe emergency exits.

In 2015, two men in their 20s fell from an emergency exit on the fourth floor of a building, as they thought there was a balcony outside the exit. The incident left one dead and the other severely injured.

Last June, a 22-year-old woman walked into the fire exit on the second floor of a building and fell 3.8 meters to the ground. She reportedly said that she opened the exit door and walked in to look for a toilet. A foldable ladder had been placed in the hallway, but not installed outside the emergency exit, the police later found.

Following a series of accidents, the Ministry of Public Safety and Security moved to revise the related law.

Last October, the ministry required the owners of buildings -- those constructed after October 2016 -- to install alarms that sound when an emergency exit door opens. To prevent falls, owners must place a safety rope outside fire exit doors and put prevention signs on the doors.

By Kim Da-sol (ddd@heraldcorp.com)