Are Your Occupants Worried About Fire?

A nationwide survey* recently conducted by the Society of Fire Protection Engineers (SFPE) revealed that only 16% of Americans said fire safety was most important to them in a list of features of buildings where they work.

Building security and comfort/temperature ranked higher with 28% and 24% choosing those features as “most important,” respectively.

“I understand how people would take fire safety for granted; systems designed to protect people, property, and the environment from fire have done a great job in safeguarding public buildings,” said SPFE engineering program manager, Chris Jelenewicz.

Federal government statistics confirm that in 2010 residential fires occurred four times more often than non-residential fires. There were 362,100 residential fires resulting in 2,555 deaths and 13,275 injuries. In the same year, there were 84,900 fires in non-residential buildings resulting in 80 deaths and 1,375 injuries.

Fire protection engineers play a large part in low numbers of non-residential fires. Their work is mostly done in commercial buildings. Jelenewicz cautions that despite the fact a non-residential fire is less likely, it’s important to remain vigilant. He offers these fire safety tips, which facility managers may want to emphasize to occupants,

  • Know and understand what is happening around you. There are many cues that alert people to fire emergencies in a building. These cues can include being notified by the building’s fire alarm/emergency communication system, hearing other people in the building, seeing the fire, smelling smoke, hearing unusual noises, or hearing the fire department.
  • If you do think there is a fire in the building, immediately take actions to exit the building or find a safe area of refuge.
  • Always follow the directions that are given by the building’s emergency notification system and/or the building staff.
  • In any building you regularly occupy, take steps to fully understand the building’s emergency plan and participate in evacuation drills.

Guidelines For Tall Buildings; Comments Being Accepted Now
Meanwhile, SFPE, in collaboration with the International Code Council (ICC), is developing Guidelines for Designing Fire Safety in Very Tall Buildings.

These guidelines provide information on the topics that affect the performance of very tall buildings and their occupants in fire. This guide addresses these topics using performance based fire protection engineering concepts. It is not intended to be a recommended practice or a document that is suitable for adoption as a code.

Comments are due June 8, 2012. A draft guide and comment form can be downloaded here.

* The survey was an Ipsos poll conducted February 2-6, 2012. A national sample of 1,000 adults aged 18 and older from Ipsos’ U.S. online panel who have agreed to participate in Ipsos studies were interviewed online. Weighting was then employed to balance demographics and ensure the sample’s composition reflects that of the U.S. adult population according to Census data and to provide results intended to approximate the sample universe. A survey with an unweighted probability sample of this size and a 100% response rate would have an estimated margin of error of +/- 3.1 percentage points 19 times out of 20 of what the results would have been had the entire adult population of the U.S. had been polled. All sample surveys and polls may be subject to other sources of error, including, but not limited to coverage error, and measurement error.