Comprehensive Fire Safety Effectiveness Model

Comprehensive Fire Safety Effectiveness Model

Seven key factors have been identified which affect fire losses in Ontario. Together, these factors have been conceptualized into the Comprehensive Model. The completed model will serve as a basis for an objective evaluation of fire protection services in a municipality. Application of the model provides an opportunity to maximize the effectiveness of the fire protection services while ensuring an appropriate level of health and safety for the fire fighters. Each of the seven factors will in reality contribute differently to the total level of protection provided to a community.

1. Fire Risk

Assessing the fire risk within a community is the process of examining and analyzing the relevant factors that characterize the community and applying this information to identify potential fire risk scenarios that may be encountered.  The assessment includes an analysis of the likelihood of these scenarios occurring and their potential impacts to the community.

 The characteristics of an individual community will affect the level of fire risk to be protected against. For example, older buildings pose a different set of problems than new buildings built to modern construction codes. High-rise, commercial and industrial occupancies, each pose additional factors to be considered. Construction, occupancy type, water supply, exposure between buildings, modern furniture and furnishings, and the risk which the combination of these factors pose to the occupants, constitute the fire risk component of the Comprehensive Model. Fire risk can be reduced by effective built-in suppression and/or protection measures. Notably, response to single family, detached residential occupancies accounted for approximately 36% of all fire alarms and 46% of all fire related deaths in Ontario in 1988-1992.

The potential impacts of fires include deaths, personal injuries, substantial property loss, and damage to the environment. Factors, such as the historical value of certain properties and the tax assessment value of property in the community, should also be taken into account. In many cases, the loss of a particular occupancy in a community has an adverse impact on the local economy. Examination of such factors will help to determine the potential impact of the fire on the community.

Fires may also have a negative psychological impact on victims, but that effect will not be evaluated within the scope of this study.

2. Fire Prevention Program Effectiveness

Legislation, regulations (codes) and standards pertaining to fire safety focus primarily on fire prevention. Enforcement of these codes is one of the most effective ways of reducing the loss of life and property due to fire. As such, the development, administration, and enforcement of fire safety legislation is an important component of the Comprehensive Model. In addition, more emphasis needs to be placed on educating the public about general fire safety principles. Public fire safety education has the potential to substantially reduce the loss of life and property due to fire.

Although it is difficult to quantify the results of fire prevention - one cannot count the number of fires that did not occur - effective prevention and public fire safety education are likely to have a direct and substantial impact on reducing the demand on emergency response services.

3. Public Attitude

It is generally believed that North Americans tend to be more complacent about fires and the resulting losses than in other parts of the industrialized world. North American society tends to accept the consequences of fire and offers community support and comprehensive insurance packages to mitigate damages.

Public attitude towards fire needs to be assessed in order to identify what role it plays in determining the extent of fire losses. An understanding of how the attitudes of different groups (e.g. juveniles, people in various socio-economic categories, the aged, etc.) affect fire losses, fire safety and fire awareness, will assist in determining some of the underlying causes of fires in Ontario. Properly designed public fire safety education programs may significantly improve public attitudes toward the prevention of fire and thereby help to reduce fire losses in Ontario.

4. Detection Capabilities

Fire detection notifies occupants and allows them sufficient time to escape. It may also allow for earlier notification of the fire department . Widespread use of early warning detection systems have the potential to significantly reduce notification time, which, when coupled with effective fire department suppression, produces a corresponding reduction of loss of life, injuries and damage to property from fire.

5. Built-in Suppression Capabilities

Built-in suppression refers to the fixed fire protection systems in large buildings, normally associated with assembly (ie. theatres), commercial, industrial, and manufacturing complexes, and to a lesser extent residential occupancies. These systems, such as automatic sprinkler protection, play an important role in minimizing the effects of fire by controlling the spread and growth of the fire, thereby enabling the fire department to extinguish the fire more quickly and easily.

Although effective in newer buildings, it may be difficult, if not impossible, to design built-in suppression systems that can effectively control fires in wall cavities and concealed spaces associated with certain older construction or reconstruction. Therefore, the extent to which built-in suppression systems are in use, the effectiveness and reliability of these systems, and the age of the buildings in the community, will have an impact on the demand for fire fighting services. To be considered as an effective method of providing fire protection services the complete area under consideration must be equipped with built-in suppression capability. This will, therefore, be a long term strategy for implementation. This long term strategy must consider a fire department's involvement in medical aid response in relation to the associated response time considerations.

While built-in suppression systems may decrease the demand placed on fire department suppression services, they may increase the demand placed on in-service fire prevention inspections and associated activities.

6. Intervention Time

Intervention time, for the purposes of the Comprehensive Model, is defined as the time from ignition until effective fire fighting streams can be directed at the fire. Factors which affect intervention time include, but are not limited to:

the time required to detect the fire

• notification time from the public

• notification time to the fire fighters

preparation time for the fire fighters to leave the station

• the distance between the fire station and the response location

• the layout of the community

• impediments such as weather, construction, traffic jams, lack of roads

• set-up time

• type and size of the building involved

Fire department intervention time is crucial in determining the consequences of a fire in terms of deaths, injuries and loss of property and damage to the environment. Effective fire prevention and public education programs can reduce intervention time. In turn, reducing intervention time can significantly increase fire department effectiveness. Further information on response and intervention time is included in Appendix 1.

7. Fire Ground Effectiveness

A fire department's fire ground effectiveness affects the degree of damage to the environment, property loss, personal injury and death from fire. It is, therefore, an important component of the Comprehensive Model. The eleven factors which affect a fire department's fire ground effectiveness are outlined in Part III.

Applying the Comprehensive Fire Safety Effectiveness Model

The Comprehensive Model is illustrated in three charts. It should be noted that the relative value of each factor comprising the Comprehensive Model has not been quantified.

The first chart depicts a situation in which the combined impact of all of the factors which make up the Comprehensive Model achieve an ideal level of fire protection.

The second chart shows a less than ideal level of fire protection that might be found in a particular situation. The ideal level of fire protection is not achieved as detection capabilities, built-in fire suppression capabilities, fire prevention program effectiveness, intervention time and fire ground effectiveness are incompletely exercised.

The third chart shows how strengthening one or more of the factors may enhance the ability to reduce losses due to fire.

Continued efforts to make improvements in selected areas could ultimately eliminate any gaps in the overall ability to provide effective fire protection services.

Every municipality's situation must be evaluated individually. The impact of certain components will vary depending upon the fire risk faced by the community and its ability to respond to the risk.