A nationwide survey conducted by Bethesda, MD-based Society for Fire Protection Engineers (SFPE) reveals that from a list of characteristics that included comfort, fire safety, environmental friendliness and other amenities, security was chosen by more Americans as the most important feature of a building. Specifically, 28% of Americans feel security is the most important feature, while 15% of respondents indicated that fire safety is the most important aspect of a building’s design.
“The findings are not a huge surprise to us given the threat from terrorism that we face today,” says Chris Jelenewicz, Engineering Program Manager with SFPE. “But one thing people don’t often think about is how security and fire protection have common goals in building design—protecting life and property.
“Throughout history, the desire for increased building security has contributed to countless deadly building fires. The most notable fire occurred at the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory in New York City in 1911, where locked exit doors contributed to 146 fatalities,” said Jelenewicz. “Although the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire occurred almost 100 years ago, the threat can still exist today if security is not balanced with fire protection. For instance, padlocked exit doors contributed to the deaths of 175 concert goers at a Buenos Aires nightclub fire in 2004.”
The survey also reveals that 56% of Americans think about fire and the dangers of fire either on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis. A sizeable 44% think about fire just once a year or less. This finding remains unchanged from February 2005, when the same question was asked.
Another noteworthy finding from the survey revealed that 44% of Americans feel safer in their homes when compared to public and commercial buildings such as schools, churches, and offices.
“Although some people may feel safer in their homes, more fire fatalities occur in homes than in other types of buildings,” says Jelenewicz. “Building regulations have stricter fire safety requirements for public buildings than they do for homes. Accordingly, the efforts of fire protection engineers are generally focused on public buildings, which are consequently much safer.”