The LWF Blog

Fire Safety Engineering for Design – Fire & Societal Concern – Part 67

February 14, 2022 12:57 pm

LWF’s Fire Safety Engineering blog series is written for Architects, building designers and others in the construction industry to highlight and promote discussion on all topics around fire engineering. In part 66, LWF discussed some of the pitfalls of the Quantitative Risk Assessment (QRA) process. In part 67, we look at societal concern and how it affects fire safety.

When considering the fire safety provision in a building with a large number of occupants, or where the occupants may be vulnerable in some way, it is necessary to think about societal concern in relation to the fire risks involved or the fire safety measures taken to mitigate a fire risk.

When determining whether or not societal concern is likely to be an issue, the following potential situations should be considered:

Is it possible that there is a fire risk from a potential failure that could cause a major incident? If such an incident is possible and society might be unaware of the issue or might assume such issues are already under control, then it should be addressed.

If there is the potential for injuries in a large scale, this is likely to cause public aversion.

Where there is the potential for a ‘near-miss’ situation, such as a key failure in the accident sequence, even where this does not lead to serious consequences, it has the capacity to cause public unease and a loss of confidence.

If there is a risk that is inequitably shared, especially where the risk may impact a vulnerable group, such as children, persons with disabilities or the elderly.

In a given situation, if a decision may be made which leads to loss of public trust in the duty holder’s ability to learn from serious incidents and/or adopt good practice in fire safety.

It is also possible that the public may consider a risk reduction measure to be disproportionate to the risks involved, where it would have a significant effect on the operations of the duty holder’s operations.

Certain types of industry or service are more commonly affected by societal concern. For instance, public bodies such as health authorities, housing authorities, transport providers and education authorities are all particularly susceptible to the impact of societal concern.

However, private industries may also be affected. A disaster at a shopping mall in Qatar in 2012 led to the deaths of 19 adults and children, and the resulting aftermath changed the attitude to fire safety in the entire country, as well as resulting in prison sentences for those persons deemed to have been at fault.

In part 68 of LWF’s series on fire engineering, we look at how the fire safety provision for building design should take firefighter safety into consideration. In the meantime, if you have any questions about this blog, or wish to discuss your own project with one of our fire engineers, please contact us.

Lawrence Webster Forrest has been working with their clients for over 25 years to produce innovative and exciting building projects. If you would like further information on how LWF and fire strategies could assist you, please contact the LWF office on 0800 410 1130.

While care has been taken to ensure that information contained in LWF’s publications is true and correct at the time of publication, changes in circumstances after the time of publication may impact on the accuracy of this information.


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