Fire can be a deadly nightmare or an extremely useful tool for humans. For centuries, mankind has used fire for various purposes such as food cooking and power generation. Fire possesses dual characteristics as it can either frighten us or excite us. Human civilisation would not have been the same, had there been no fire. A large-scale fire event can cause damage to both the property and humans. According to Tan and Hiew (2004), considerably monetry losses can occur if fires are allowed to get out of control. The first major fire outbreak in the UK which was recorded by historians took place in 1136, causing substantial damage to the towns of York, Bath and London. Another notable fire event occurred in the year of 1966 in London that ended with 80 percent of the city turning into ashes. In recent years, the most notable incident of fire in a high-rise building occurred in the First Interstate Tower in Los Angeles. This fire event took place on 4 May 1988 and resulted in as many as 40 deaths.
Humans have always remained interested in the safety measures to prevent fire. In ancient times, humans used fire for cooking, heating and lighting, but they were always careful of the deadly properties of fire. Accidents of misuse can result in disasters. The inherent risks of fire exist even today, and even though society has adopted sophisticated preventive measures, the risk has not been eliminated. As our civilization progressed, the interest in identifying ways to eliminate or reduce fire risks and understand the causes of fire outbreaks has also intensified.
High-rise commercial and residential buildings are always vulnerable to the threat of fire. Occupants can be exposed to serious life threats if they are not educated about their responsibilities in the case of fire. Of course, the first challenge in this regard is to design high-rise buildings that are capable of eliminating or at least reducing the risks of fires. Fire occurrences may be rare but that should not stop the owners, tenants, staff and occupants from getting better educated about how to react to fire events. This is because the first five to ten minutes following the outbreak of fire can determine the extent of damage (Kruse, 1993).
Building occupants often end up being the victims of fire, even though they are not a mistake. Occasionally, they may even burn to death in addition to getting their property and belonging damaged. Injuries and deaths occur when the occupants are not sure about what they must do in the event of a fire. It is not possible to compensate for such tragedies with money. Thus, it is critically important to educate the occupants about the precautionary measures that they must take in the event of a fire. The compulsory and necessary safety measures should be provided by the owners of high-rise buildings to prevent people from fire hazards. Owners may face prosecution if charges of negligence and irregularities are proven against them (Abdullah, 2001).
Although safety features of high-rise buildings are usually very sophisticated, there remains a question mark over the safety of occupants. Various factors such as human errors, negligence, carelessness, lack of fire extinguishing material and lack of fire safety training can contribute to fire outbreaks, and therefore a considerable amount of research has been performed in the area of fire safety management in high-rise buildings over the last few years. The responsibility to ensure the security and safety of high-rise buildings must be shared by operations and maintenance staff, cleaners, residents/occupants, and owners, as argued by Tan and Hiew (2004). The fire incidents of Kuala Lumpur provide an insight into the fire safety management shortcomings that led to forgettable disasters and injuries. This research study intends to establish the most crucial aspects of fire safety management to prevent occupants of high-rise buildings from fire.
The aim of this study is the investigate fire safety management in high-rise buildings with a focus on the safety of building residents.
The research is carried out to:
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The Literature Review chapter of this research primarily investigates the characteristics and effects of fire including the nature of fire (Ignition, Combustion, and Pyrolysis). Sources of fire hazards in high-rise buildings including the hazards presented by different materials such as textiles, plastics, wood and wood-based products, gases and liquids will be discussed in detail in this section. Sources of oxidants, sources of heat energy i.e. mechanical heat energy, chemical heat energy, electrical heat energy, as well as the causes of fire in high-rise buildings will be identified and discussed in detail by the researcher. The effects of fire and fire products and human behaviour in fire emergencies will also be established by reviewing the available literature. Furthermore, different aspects of fire safety management systems in high-rise buildings such as preventive management, signage, pest control programmes and housekeeping practices, inspection, precaution, and renovation, fire and evacuation, and emergency response management will also be studied. A brief description of the literature that will be studied in the dissertation is given below.
The issues of fire or other safety concerns for the residents of high-rise buildings is being discussed for over 100 years. However, this issue was addressed even more after the incident at the World Trade Center. Questions have been raised regarding the safety of occupants and their relation to building design as well as fire management strategies. Questions such as “how safe the residents of high-rise apartments are from the fire?” and “What are the fire safety measures/strategies in these buildings?” have become major concerns for building design professionals (Hall, 2001). The invention of secure emergency elevators and better developmental structures have made these high stories buildings possible. Usually, a building having six or more stories is considered in the category (Lougheed, 1997).
Risk is usually defined as the probability of an incident in a given fixed situation or consequence. Here the risk can be stated as:
Risk= Consequences x Probability
Therefore, one can calculate the risk to life from fire by examining all the consequences of a fire happening events in all probable locations and buildings (Hall, 2001).In addition, the incidents of fire in high-rise buildings and their stats can also be directed from national fire protection reports of different countries available online. Some of the stats from the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) are given below: (John R. Hall, 2013)
|Directed property damage)||What percentage of all fires?|
|Year||Fire||Civilian Death||Civilian Injuries||(Million $)||As Reported||Were High Rise?|
Table 1 Source: NFPA Report
The table above shows the figures for fire incidents in the past years with respective damages and casualties. The last column shows the percentage of high-rise buildings in which these fire incidents happens. This chart shows that risks and deaths through fire incidents are related to the height of the building where almost 10 % of the buildings in which these accidents happened were High-rise (Hall, 2013).
From the above-mentioned figures, it is evident that fire incidents are responsible for hazardous effects both to the occupants as well as for the building itself. But the question arises that why the risk is perceived to be higher in high-rise buildings. This question can be answered through the following descriptions.
For an architect or designer, all the above-mentioned features should be well understood and addressed so that the building they will make will be fire-safe. Today there exist codes that provide guides for building designers to solve these problems. The engineers need to understand these issues before designing a high-rise building and come up with sustainable and unique solutions for them. These are all the requirements needed for fire safety engineering (Demkin, 2003)
The increased incidents of fire in high-rise buildings forced the concrete and masonry industry to recognize and address this issue so that fire safety can be increased and property loss can be decreased (Anon., 2015). Keeping in mind the need for such a policy the Fire Safety Committee and Masonry Industry recommends some basic principles and guidelines for architects and designers. These principles guide in choosing an appropriate design and construction material for the building so that the individuals, as well as property, are safe from fire (Meacham, B.J., 2004). These principles are discussed below:
The most important thing to consider while designing and developing a high-rise building is that in case of fire there must be no structural failure and the building should not be collapsed during the fire. This is because if the building collapsed it will not only endanger the lives of occupants and the fire rescuers but also can bring hazards to the people and buildings around (Tan, C. W, 2004). The floors and structural material should be tested according to the fire rating codes to determine their performance in fire. Their performance is tested in laboratories so there is always a doubt that how they will perform in an actual devastating situation. Usually, structural materials which have two hours or more fire rating are considered useful in varied fire situations. These codes help to develop criteria for performance and design for maximum safety of high-rise buildings (Soja & Wade, 2000).
Modern studies have claimed that the hazardous incidents in modern high buildings are a result of inappropriate use of construction material and building design that does not feature characteristics of stability in fire situations. These include the use of low-quality and combustible materials and unsafe building design such as inconvenient access to an exit, poor elevator controls and poor exhausting system in corridors or stairs. These factors can contribute to stack effects and can cause difficulties to both occupants and as well as for firefighters. These problems can only be controlled by strict implementation of building codes that are based on safety measures and considerations. it is also important that these codes should not be meant for reducing some risks and creating new ones.
Each story of the building should consist of compartmentation that encloses the floor, stairwell and elevator. It is suggested that each story should have two compartmentations so that the evacuation or rescue procedures can be done efficiently in case of fire. These compartments are made safe through fire-restricted barriers which are also responsible for smoke control. The openings should be equipped with self-closing doors and dampers etc. Smoke control devices should be installed in corridors and stairs to avoid suffocation. All these precautions are necessary to warn the occupants and ensure their safety from fire hazards.
The old constructed high buildings which were built according to old codes were safer than the modern building. The primary reason behind this is that modern construction involves the massive use of combustible material which results in greater flame and smoke as the result of accidental fire (Walke, 2008). However, this danger can be minimized by applying strict legal control over material use for construction including secondary building materials such as insulations and finishes. Practical criteria should be adopted in controlling the damage that occurs through fire and life threats from smoke and combustion. Government should take steps on a national level to ensure occupants' safety in these high-rise buildings (Tylor. Wood, 2011)
Modern building codes made these automatic fire suppressing systems compulsory for high-rise buildings. These fire safety equipment are in addition to other necessary fire safety measures and should be included in basic building design. These systems should be included to provide instant safety from any fire incident. However, these sprinklers cannot rely totally on fire extinguishers because they may not work in a heavy fire situation. These sprinkle systems can also help alert people ahead before the fire raises to a hazardous level (Lougheed, 1997).
It was recommended that in stories where non-compartment areas exist automatic fire suppressing systems should be implanted. However, they should not be considered a permanent substitution for structural fire resistance or compartmentation. Compartmentation is necessary for the reliable security of occupants in these high-rise buildings (Bunker & R, 2002).
Different types of rules and regulations have been developed and regulated for protecting buildings from fire and smoke. These rules and approved codes of practices/regulations define procedures that help/facilitate the architects and building designers to build structures such as high-rise buildings in a much more protected way so that they could be safe from any disaster situation or even can avoid them from happening. The common codes or regulations practised in the world are:
Initially, the NFPA codes were used by architects all over the world but today they have a choice of using either NFPA codes or Local codes (B1). In designing high-rise buildings the following fire factors and behaviours are considered to successfully implement the fire protection system. These involve:
The Risk: the risk of the fire can be estimated by taking into account the amount and kinds of combustible materials used in the construction of the building and furnishing it. It also involves the occupant’s characteristics such as body heat and energy. The energy and mass loss are also involved in these risk estimation calculations (ASCE, 1999). The energy release rate relations can be given as
The Growth Rate of Fire: The fire growth rate is determined by the maximum time it takes the occupants to reach a safe exit. After this, the time required for reaching the defined safe zone must be greater than the time which is estimated for the fire to reach the evacuation zone.
Time of Activation: this estimation involves the time required for the pre-activation process which is the time of detecting fire by the security system and the time involved in the starting of these emergency procedures.
Layout Design: The building design or layout ensures that all the above-mentioned factors are covered while designing the high-rise building. What kind of protection and evacuation system will be used in a building will be cleared at this stage.
Modelling of Fire Protection System: Fire resistance which is the ability of a building to withstand fire can play a major role in enhancing fire protection in high-rise buildings. These buildings are given different fire ratings or codes depending upon their resistance. These codes and ratings are given on the base of the building design and the covered area. These buildings are also physically tested however the actual resistance to fire situation is always unpredictable. The severity of resistance can be determined by a man other factors which are not defined in building codes. The commonly used evacuation procedures in high-rise structures include the single-stage evacuation on fire alarm and/or the two-staged evacuation processes involving quick investigation in which a warning code is sent to employees and after confirmation, the fire alarm and sprinkles are activated.
The analysis necessary for numeric modelling: The following fire resistance analysis should be conducted:
The escape designs hold significant importance and their objectives are categorized by keeping in view the building requirements and other concerned rules and regulations. Moreover, it is ascertained that the building must be designed and constructed by keeping appropriate provisions for the warning signs of fire. Apart from all this, a safe path must be constructed that routes toward an outside building and provides an escape path in case of fire from the building. The employees must be trained properly for following all these procedures without any outside assistance even in the case of an emergency or disaster.
For the cases of high-rise bundling, much emphasis is also given to the means of evacuation in terms of the capacity of stairways (designed from equations/modelling), the implication of the phased evacuation approach (such as for wo floors evacuation to avoid panic, e.g. as per LDSA Fire Safety guide), exit widths, exit flows, travel distances and times, along with the consideration of the type of occupants residing the multistory high rise buildings. Details of the parameters and calculation models have not been included in this interim report (due to limitations of time/length), however, one complete case study of how to design active protection and safety system for a high-rise building will be included in the final submission of this paper.
The Methodology chapter of this research study will include different techniques and strategies employed by the researcher to collect primary secondary as well as secondary data to fill the research gaps.
From the literature reviewed in this research, it has been observed that there is extensive literature available on active fire protection systems as well on how to protect the high rise building through codes of practices and optimized/efficient designing techniques. This literature includes various parameters such as causes of fire, energy analyses, spread of fire, evacuation and mitigation measures. However, not many research studies discuss the parameters which must be considered from the point of view of high-rise building residents. Therefore, this research has been planned to be categorized in two distinct methodologies;
Keeping in mind the nature of the study which is descriptive a survey method approach is selected for the study. The main focus of the study is to examine the safety concerns of residents in high-rise buildings and how they have to tackle any emergency, especially fire incidents (MiaZmud, 2007).
The main goal of the primary research will be:
Based on the research aims and objectives the following research questions will be answered this research:
This research will provide detailed answers to these questions along with more questions that will be fabricated in a form of a questionnaire after careful evaluation of the related literature
The details of the secondary data have already been presented in the previous sections
The first step in sampling for the collection of primary data will involve identifying the universe for the study which will be high-rise buildings, their residents and building designers. The building will be selected through a random sampling method which then provides the base for the sample frame for the participants that will be ultimately selected for the survey. The sampling criteria will involve participants from buildings which are above 5-10+ stories in height. In the simple frame, the buildings which are 5 stories or above will be considered “high” and buildings with less than 5 stories will be considered “short”. Eligible buildings will be verified through legal documents or online sources. The age of the building will also be reviewed. Once the buildings for the survey will be shortlisted the participants will then be selected through a random sampling method from these buildings. In addition, data will also be collected from architects and building designers to get information on the latest trend in high-rise building safety and evacuation procedures.
The tools used for this research will be self-administered questionnaires and interviews. Structured questionnaires will be used to gather data from the residents of high-rise buildings and interviews will be conducted with the architects and designers. A demographic form will also be filled out by the participants which will include the basic demographic information such as name, age, gender, occupation etc.
The research will be conducted on the residents who live in buildings above 5 stories. In addition, the residents should be permanently living/working in these buildings for over 2 years. The architects and designers for the study will be those who have a legal license and have experience of more than 5 years.
At this point in time, the researcher believes that he will be able to collect sufficient secondary data to achieve the objectives of this study. Therefore, the use of primary data sources may not be mandatory.
This chapter of the paper will present the analysis and major findings of this research study. In the analysis portion the primary, as well as secondary data/content, will be analyzed thoroughly using critical analyses and Excel/SPSS/similar tools, and by applying various testing and statistical procedures like comparing mean and test scores and significance analysis. The accurate results will be presented with the margin of error which will be varied according to survey and analysis level. The analysis will focus on the main variables of the study which are “High-Rise Buildings”, “Occupants Safety” and “Fire Risk”.
The findings section will present the results of the analysis which will be based on the objectives of the study. They will include that the underlying causes of fire risk in high-rise buildings and the developed practices of building designers and occupants towards safety management and emergency evacuation procedures etc. It should be noted that the results of this study are expected to be consistent with other similar studies performed in the past. However, some differences might be observed due to differences in research design and data sources. The aim will be to present the results that relate to the aims and objectives of this paper.
The findings and analysis chapter will be followed by the Discussions and Conclusions section, where the researcher will present their views, opinions and arguments in light of the research questions and research findings. The researcher will support the findings through the use of authentic reference resources and studies. There might be a chance that some findings will not match the study’s objectives however they will also be justified through research and references The Discussions and Conclusions chapter will clearly outline the methods to improve the safety of high-rise buildings whilst identifying shortcomings of safety features and safety planning. This chapter will also include some suggestions from the researcher to help the occupants of high-rise buildings as well as the designers to ensure better and quick safety in case of any emergency or fire situation.
The expected timeline for this research has been outlined below. Initially, the project introduction draft along with the literature review will be drafted. After careful analyses of the literature, a methodology section will be finalized, which will establish the method of investigation to be conducted. This will include drafting the questionnaire for the collection of the data, reaching out to the participants, and conducting interviews. After the primary as well as secondary data have been collected, the data will be processed to obtain the findings of this research. These findings along with the literature reviewed will then be used to present the conclusion and the lessons learned during this research. Finally, the completed paper will be edited to produce the final paper
A list of reference resources used to collect data and support arguments will be presented in this chapter.
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