Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Fire Alarms Might Be a Good Idea

We interrupt this attempt at catching up on vacation posts for a quick news story:

Remember way back in 2007 when I had a little experience with fire here in Brasil? (As in, our hotel caught on fire and the only way I found out was that the front desk was calling each room and asking them to evacuate?) No? Well, read here to refresh your memory.

And now I would like to reiterate my point about the need to add "fogo" to your vocabulary if you're going to visit Brasil.

Monday evening Eric called me. I assumed it was the nightly, "Honey, I'm on my way home" phone call. But this time it was actually a "Hey guess what? I'm standing outside the plant watching it burn" call.

The bad news? Big, hot fire. Major damage to the supply warehouse building (and contents) for the factory.

The good news? It started after 5:30, so most everyone had already left for the day and the firemen got it under control before it spread to the offices and factory/assembly area.

The scary part? Not a single fire alarm in the whole place went off. Because there aren't any.

You can see the Globominas news coverage of the fire here.

Thank goodness no one was hurt, but without fire alarms, can you imagine how bad it could have been if it happened in the middle of the work day?


Ray Adkins said...


I know for a fact Sao Paulo office high rises, Hotels and Malls do indeed have fire alarms and walls, by law are coated with an fire retardant product.
However you are right, fire alarms are not everywhere like in the US.
Still, it is worth to point out that the city of Sao Paulo treats fire emergencies very seriously, mainly because of a tragedy that happened in the 1974, the Joelma Building, which was IBM Computer's Headquarters in Brazil at the time, had a horrific fire, the office building was on top of a 7 story parking garage filled with cars ( gasoline ), the emergency exits were poorly planed, many offices had highly combustible carpet, drapery and wall subdivisions, long story short, 180 people died in the tragedy and after the incident the city of Sao Paulo became so strict with fire safety it became a reference and a model followed by fire departments worldwide.
For more details on this incident, you can google "Joelma Fire, 1974", but be careful because your searches will most likely bring in some graphic footage of the fire you might want to pass on that and just read about it on the historical records.
I totally share your level of surprise regarding the lack of fire alarms in a factory as shown on your post, it's 2009, they should have fire alarms in factories.


Rogério Penna said...

Quite funny, considering firefighters make inspections in buildings. Maybe they were bribed... or maybe the requirements depend by city or state...

Emily said...

When we were in São Paulo, the sprinkler system and fire alarms were one of the first things Eric and I noticed!

I don't know the local code, but I don't think BH requires it. We almost never see fire alarms or anything here. Only fire extinguishers scattered around - which often are missing for extended periods of time!

Renato said...


The fire codes are city by city decisions.


Rogério Penna said...

interesting... maybe BH will learn after they have their own version of the Joelma or Andraus fires... (two huge fires on São Paulo highrises, in the 70s, that inspired the movie Tower Inferno)

Beros said...

Emily - that certainly is staggering that no fire alarms were present in the plant itself. Simply amazing how in a modern world this can still be the case especially with more stringent laws and inspections taking place. Fire alarm systems can really save lives with giving people warning to get out and fire people warning to put out the flames. Luckily no lives were lost in this instance - a lucky warning to the owners!