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Campaigns targeting fire hazards underway

Hazards: Improving public safety awareness seen as key

By JIANG CHENGLONG | China Daily | Updated: 2024-02-27 23:36

An employee of a property management company extinguishes a burning electric scooter during a drill on Monday at a community in Hefei, Anhui province. GE CHUANHONG / FOR CHINA DAILY

Governments at various levels have launched campaigns to address fire hazards caused by the improper parking of electric bicycles, as experts warned of the reasons behind fires caused by these vehicles, including one in which 15 people were killed last week in Nanjing, Jiangsu province.

The Ministry of Emergency Management said on Monday that the lessons from recent fires must be deeply learned, and called for resolutely preventing and containing major accidents across the country.

The ministry said that all regions should comprehensively and thoroughly investigate and rectify various types of fire safety risks and hidden dangers, focusing on prominent issues, including the entry of electric bicycles into buildings and residences, and especially targeting high-rise residential buildings.

On Friday, a fire broke out in the early morning in a high-rise residential building in Nanjing, killing 15 people and injuring 44.

A preliminary investigation indicated that the fire was caused by an electric bicycle parked in the building's ground floor.

The fire immediately prompted governments nationwide to comprehensively tackle potential fire hazards.

The day after the fire, the Jiangsu provincial government announced a comprehensive campaign on fire safety inspection, focusing especially on fire hazards in residential communities, with an emphasis on firefighting facilities, evacuation passages and illegal charging issues.

On Tuesday, the fire rescue department in Harbin, Heilong­jiang province, reminded all residents of the city that electric bicycles should not be parked or charged in any indoor public areas.

Also on Tuesday, the market supervision administration in Hefei, Anhui province, told electric bicycle manufacturing, sales and repair companies to comply with national standards on the production of electric bicycles, otherwise they would face legal measures.

Furthermore, the sale of items failing to comply with national safety technical standards or industry standards, including electric bicycles, batteries, chargers and helmets, was strictly prohibited in the city.

The fire in Nanjing has shocked Chinese netizens, with many expressing their condolences and concerns over fire hazards related to electric bicycles.

Ji Huaying, a clothing store owner in Bozhou, Anhui, said the Nanjing fire made her "very afraid".

Her family owns two electric bicycles, and she uses one to commute to her store every day.

"Electric bicycles are very convenient. Nearly every household in our community has at least one electric bicycle," she said. "The elderly often use them to pick up and drop off children from school or to go shopping."

Fortunately, in Ji's community, few residents risk charging their electric bicycles inside their homes, since there have been dedicated parking spaces and charging stations for electric bicycles for more than a decade.

However, Ji said that in other communities, many residents still charge their electric bicycles at home because it costs less or due to a lack of safety awareness.

"That phenomenon requires the property management companies of residential communities to take responsibility and persuade these residents," she said.

Wang Lijun, an employee of Beijing Chengcheng Property Management Co, said it is currently conducting a door-to-door survey on the number of electric bicycles owned by each household and the owners' information.

He will report the information to the local government and also informs owners that electric bicycles cannot be charged inside rooms.

Wang is responsible for managing two residential buildings in a community in northern Beijing with over 400 households.

The community has outdoor parking areas for electric bicycles, which are equipped with charging stations.

To prevent residents from bringing electric bicycles into their homes, the elevators in the high-rise buildings of the community have been equipped with smart cameras since 2021.

"If a resident brings an electric bicycle into the elevator, the camera will automatically detect it, causing the elevator to stop operating," Wang said.

However, many netizens have questioned whether these frequent fires are due to the quality of electric bicycle batteries.

Yang Saini, a professor of disaster reduction at Beijing Normal University, pointed out several underlying issues following the fire in Nanjing.

"First, whether these fires are related to the batteries of electric bicycles, including the production standards of battery manufacturers, and the management of battery replacement and disposal," Yang said.

Second, residential communities need to focus more on increased fire risks due to the parking of electric bicycles, as once an electric bicycle battery catches fire, it can quickly ignite surrounding combustibles, she said.

Finally, more attention should be paid to fire safety measures in high-rise buildings and improving the public's awareness of fire safety, she added.

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