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The Hot Seat | "Who does not make mistakes usually does not make a difference"

This March he has worked two and a half years at the university. Then Peter Bloemers, head of Safety & Security at TU/e, will change Eindhoven for Geleen, where he will lead the fire and security department of Sitech Services on the Chemelot campus. A job not only closer to home, according to the Limburg region’s native, but also: "Closer to my heart".

photo Kevin Tatar

No, he was certainly not finished at the TU/e, the 31-year-old Bloemers emphasizes. But 'Geleen' came on his path - due to his predecessor's personal circumstances, ultimately earlier than expected.

And this means, among other things, leaving projects in Eindhoven on which, according to his own judgement, he worked on full speed but won’t be able to finish himself. Such as the commissioning of the new central reporting center at the bottom of Atlas and the 'cohabitation' of the TU/e fire brigade and the regional fire brigade in building H4. "Anyway, in four years there would probably be new projects that would not have been finished," he also realizes. The first question card from Cursor's silk hat has been lying on the table for a few minutes now.

Who or what makes you get the giggles?
"It's not so much the giggles, but I actually laugh all day. To a certain extent, you should occasionally let your work go. Approximately fifteen thousand people come to work here every day; they also have to get back on the train or to their room every day. That is a heavy responsibility that we as a department bear and I realize that every day.

Our work comes with great challenges, as well as the inevitable incidents - from broken barriers and theft to worse things, like threats; either towards people individually or to the university as a whole. At those moments you have to work very hard, but as soon as you can, you should also be able to laugh. For me, that is a way of processing.

People sometimes say: TU/e is just like a village - but for me it has the dynamism of a metropolis. People here have an emphatic focus, go at a high pace and in their own way. As a result, they do not always pay attention to each other. We once saw at a security camera how a boy saw through a bicycle lock; another student who pulled his bike out of the parking right beside him, didn’t see a thing. A road worker who is busy preparing a stratum cannot even take his spirit level before three people have already walked through his work.

You have to keep looking carefully at the changing dynamics and think about how you can best move along in that rhythm as a safety organization. From way back we have always been focused on extinguishing physical fires and catching crooks. But these days we also have to deal with people with stress issues, people who fight existential issues and those confused. For example, with ESA (Education and Student Affairs, ed.), we have close contact on how to deal with worrying behavior. We are also working towards a real reporting point for this, in order to be able to pick up signals at an early stage."

What is worse: failing or not trying?
"Who does not make mistakes usually does not make a difference. Certainly in the security field, a decision is still better than no decision. People look at me: what should we do? When I was hired, Jo van Ham (member of the Executive Board, ed.) said to me: "I can always call you, you know that." In other words: 'pay attention, I trust you.' I cannot hide in my position. I cannot postpone a decision. From time to time you have to decide based on incomplete information - and that decision then sometimes turns out to be less brilliant than expected.

Especially in times of crisis it is easy to talk shit afterwards. When that stack of pallets in Scheveningen fell over during New Year’s Eve, everyone said: 'How could they have allowed that?' While everyone screamed: 'Burn it!’, just an hour before.

I believe that whatever you do, you always learn from it and come out better. I hope to pass this on to my daughter (eight months old, ed.) as well: just do it. While rafting with friends in Turkey I jumped out of the boat in an area where you weren’t supposed to - probably because I did not pay attention to the instruction, but also because I thought it was okay.

As a security guard I have to make sure that people do not take risks, but actually taking risks is the best thing there is. But while having a certain amount of control; I'm not going over the edge. That’s not possible in my job, you have to be of good behavior and integrity. I’m also TU/e’s head of security after five o'clock in the afternoon."

What is your greatest talent?
"I think that would be bringing people together, both business wise and private. I have always liked to do things together, regardless of self-interest or existing structures. In my village Belfeld (municipality of Venlo, ed.) I am the chairman of the sponsoring committee of the carnival association. I am also a volunteer for the fire department and I have played sousaphone for years at the local brass band. Musical talent? Well, no worries, I didn’t miss out on a professional career, but I can do well without practising too much. I have a musical ear."

What do you regret most?
"Sometimes I think: I should have had my career in the sector of defense, then I would have seen more of the world. But a real regret - that doesn’t fit my nature. Of course I sometimes see a missed opportunity or something that did not go well, but I am always very opportunistic; even if something went wrong, also something went well.

Maybe I should have some more feelings of regret sometimes, or reflect more on the things I do. Because of my attitude, I sometimes walk in front of the troops and in that I can be too fast in the eyes of others. Sometimes I could show a bit more empathy.

I certainly do not regret my time at the TU/e. I gained a lot of experience here and some good steps are made - which in a sense have led me to this new crossroads in my life. Because when we set up a new emergency room here on campus, I wanted to go and look at the one in Geleen anyway. Chemelot has always had an attraction on me, even though I have never been very focused on it.

I believe that you yourself are the one at the wheel of your life. And that if you believe in something, it will happen. Of course things also happen to you. But as soon as that’s the case, you have to work hard; grab on to the wheel and drive on."

What is your greatest guilty pleasure?
"If I have a tough day at the TU/e, I will put on music from Limburg in the car on my way back home. Rowwen Hèze, Venlo dialect bands, a bit of carnival music. And then singing along for forty-five minutes, such a joy. Then I really go back home, both literally and figuratively speaking. That way I can deal better with the responsibility of my job and arrive home fresh and renewed."

For our column The Hot Seat we ask students and employees to pull five cards from our top hat full of questions. One question may be exchanged. The next interview will appear in three weeks' time.

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