Brian, U of Taiwan, and the Friendly Fire Inspector

A few weeks ago a friend and I were trying to complete a workout that required the use of a jump rope at the university gym.  Unfortunately, the guys running the weight room wouldn’t let us do that inside and also refused to open a blocked (and locked) back door so we could complete the workout in the hall. They told us that the door had to remain locked.  Because I was a bit frustrated at not being able to do the workout, I asked how a door labeled “Emergency Exit” could remain locked.  Wasn’t that a fire code violation?  I asked the same thing about the front doors to the main building. The gym brushed my complaints aside and figured that was the end of the discussion.  WRONG.

These are the doors in question:

Three weeks after this played out, I finally had time to check with the local fire department.  I walked in the front door of the 復興路 fire station and asked about the legality of blocking emergency exits.  Low and behold it was illegal.  They said they’d send an inspector over within an hour and amazingly enough… allowed me to accompany him!  HA.

Here is my friendly Taipei fire inspector Mr. Xie.  He seemed pretty young.

I showed Mr. Xie the areas of concern and a big discussion ensued when the gym 負責人 was summed to account for the blocked doors.  His lack of concern for fire safety amazed me.  He tried to reason that the gym’s need to control access outweighed that of those trying to flee a potential fire.  In the end, Mr. Xie took pictures and an official compliant will be drafted within 3 days.  The school has the same amount of time to unblock the doors or face fines.   I tried to take pictures of this whole conversation but was prevented from doing so by the employees of the gym.  Too bad.

The moral of the story is that while many landlords and building owners might not take fire safety seriously in Taiwan… the city of Taipei clearly does.  I was able to get an inspector within 1 hour of complaining.  Pretty impressive.

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