Americans Rank Building Security as #1 Feature

A nationwide survey conducted by Bethesda, MD-based Society for Fire Protection Engineers (SFPE) reveals that building security topped a list of characteristics as Americans’ most important feature in public buildings. The list included comfort, fire safety, environmental friendliness, and other amenities.

“The findings are not surprising, given the threat from crime and terrorism that we face today,” says Chris Jelenewicz, engineering program manager at SFPE. “However, Americans should recognize that thousands of people die each year in fires, and fire safety features are critical to protect people and property.”

The results of this survey revealed 28% of Americans feel security is the most important feature, while 12% of respondents indicated that fire safety is the most important aspect of a building’s design. Americans also ranked comfort and amenities higher than fire safety. The results are similar to SFPE’s 2006 survey, in which the same question was asked.

“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.”

The survey also revealed that when compared to natural disasters, 45% believe fire is the event that will most likely cause harm to them or their family. Included in this list were lighting strikes (18%), hurricanes (15%), earthquakes (12%), and floods (10%).

These findings support statistics that show people are more likely to be harmed by fire when compared to natural disasters. Although natural disasters such as hurricanes and earthquakes are covered widely in the national news media, many more people die each year as a result of fire.

Another noteworthy finding reveals that over 58% of those surveyed worry about the dangers of fire less than once a year. At the same time, wealthy Americans think about the risk of fire less frequently than those with lower incomes.

“As a nation, we face widespread misconceptions about fire safety, and that’s worrisome,” said Jelenewicz. “That is why it is important that fire protection engineers devote their careers to protecting people and property from fire.”

The survey commissioned by the Society for Fire Protection Engineers and conducted in February, 2009 by Synovate, polled more than one thousand American adults. The findings have a margin of error of plus (+) or minus (-) three percent.