In the aftermath of the fire in Jinqiao Tower 2 last week, residents of the 13th floor have moved back into their rooms and inspections are being performed on the electrical boxes.
At 6:10pm on February 5, the Tower 2 13th floor electrical box caught on fire on its own. The fire department arrived on scene to put out the fire and an alert was sent to students in Tower 2 by Public Safety notifying them of the incident. No one was injured. The 13th floor students were temporarily moved to the Tong Mao hotel for the evening. At 9:45pm, power was fully restored to the building.
“The 13th floor moved for two nights, because we knew that the repairs were gonna take more than a day to do,” Associate Dean of Students David Pe said, “and we didn’t want people to be sitting in limbo, so we decided to do two nights to be safe.”
Facilities informed Pe that the cause of the fire was “an isolated malfunction of the electric meter in the 13th floor box.” Dean of Students Charlene Visconti and Pe have confirmed that there was no interference with the meter, it was simply a malfunction. No student property was damaged in the fire, there was only a smell of smoke and staff have since cleaned the affected areas.
“When the alarm rang, I thought that these are the evacuation exercises that were mentioned at the meetings with the RAs at the beginning of the semester,” a freshman student who was in the building at the time of the fire said. “However, when I felt the smell of the smoke, I dropped what I was doing and went straight to the stairs. When I escaped my room, I saw the smoke coming from the main part of the building. At the same time I saw a friend of mine. We kept calm and started walking as fast as we could down the stairs.”
“The first thing that we want students to be reminded of is if the alarm goes off and it’s going off, they need to evacuate,” Pe said. “Some students are like oh, that must be a test, or must be whatever or stuff, so in that messaging in my multiple emails to students is that if you hear the alarm, evacuate, because otherwise you’re putting more people at risk trying to go find you.”
Another freshman student was in the elevator when the fire occurred. “I was riding the elevator to my room when somewhere around the 14-15th floor I heard a loud banging sound. I assumed something was going wrong with the elevator so I prepared myself to jump off quickly,” they said. “But when the doors opened there was just a wall of smoke.”
“During a fire drill last semester I remember thinking ‘oh boy, I’m really high up’ because I’m on the 16th floor but this time I felt like I was 100 stories up,” they added. “Now, I realize how dangerous it could have been since there is only one stairwell.”
Image of the electrical box where the fire started.
“The electric box is state property, so tenants don’t just go into the meter box to inspect it. It’s locked and secure. The State Grid is responsible for the box and they coordinate with the property management in terms of opening it every month to do the meter checks and inspect those things,” Pe said. “So I know that the box is opened monthly because they have to run the records of things.”
The meter is managed by the State Grid in collaboration with the JinQiao facility’s property management. The school has asked that they inspect every electrical box in the facility. “We have our engineers who are following them with all of the inspections,” Pe said, noting that now the State, Public Safety and Jinqiao property management are all currently inspecting the units across all towers.
All of the electrical boxes in Jinqiao are isolated from one another, meaning that a malfunction in one box will not affect the other boxes, due to the formatting of the building. “The original plan was residential building with 3 apartments in tower 2 and 4 apartments in tower 3 and 4 each so they were operating individually in terms of their own units, so it would’ve been family units essentially,” Pe said. “We have to trust the engineers and the experts to be the ones who will ensure that their property is working.”
Last Friday, the owners of the property replaced the electrical box and added an upgraded mechanism to ensure safety. “This was a good opportunity to ensure that we additional quality control mechanisms in place, so that was a good outcome of the situation,” Pe said.
“We want students to update their cell phone contacts in Albert so that we have the most up-to-date information,” Pe added, as an extra safety precaution. “We heavily use WeChat to communicate on the floor WeChat groups, but not every single person has WeChat and then it becomes risky that we’re not reaching out to every single person.”
The school is confident in their crisis response team and the reaction to the fire. “Whenever anything like this happens on campus, obviously Public Safety is right there and the RAs are right there, and the professional staff person is right there,” Visconti said. “It’s the same as our crisis response for everything. All of those people get notified immediately and then the admin on duty gets notified,” which could be Pe, Visconti, Assistant Dean of Students Adam Ebnit or Assistant Dean of Students Judy Li.
This article was written by Allison Chesky, with reporting contributed by Haley Sadoff, Isabel Adler,
and Simone Ye Please send an email to email@example.com to get in touch.
Cover Photo Credit: Maya Williams
Photo Credit: Corey Payones
Video Credit: Russell Li