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FIR 4306, Human Behavior in Fire 1



The Process of Human Behavior in Fire and Evacuations from Buildings

Course Learning Outcomes for Unit IV Upon completion of this unit, students should be able to:

1. List and describe factors that affect evacuation using stairs. 2. Discuss factors involving the process of elevators for occupant egress

and fire department access. 3. Discuss the use of elevators by fire fighters to gain access. 4. Describe strategies and concerns for using elevators for evacuation. 5. Discuss the use of refuge floors and managing evacuation.


Unit Lesson One of the most feared tasks fire fighters face might be the evacuation of occupants from a large or very tall building. There are many factors to consider in regards to safely and effectively evacuating people from a building. Stairwells, elevators, occupancy levels, and demographics of occupancy are some of the issues that must be assessed in evacuation situations. This unit will address basic strategies of evacuating occupants from a building, stairwell factors that affect evacuation including the usefulness and limitations to using stairwells during evacuation, and the advantages and limitations of using elevators during the evacuation process. Fire fighters may be heavily dependent on the stairwells, or at least one set during an evacuation, and naturally, would like to use the elevators if possible. The decision about what method to use may be dependent on a number of factors. Buildings with protected elevators can be a major asset and carry much of the occupant load. During this unit, you will read about a subject that many fire fighters may have limited knowledge on – refuse areas/floors. These areas can be advantageous for managing and controlling evacuation of the building. The history of the building may provide fire fighters with much needed information. Fire personnel may reference their pre-plan to get specific information about the type of building and the building layout. After dispatching personnel to the incident, the emergency communication center can be useful in researching the building’s incident history, history of alarms, etc., and communicating this information back to the emergency personnel. These factors may affect the behavior of the building’s staff, as well as the buildings occupants. The current activities in the building can help determine evacuation strategies, and possible behavior of the occupants. Events such as concerts, weddings, and conferences can attract specific audiences. These audiences may range from very young people to older adults. The demographics of the audience can affect the evacuation plan. With some events, there may be a large number public safety personnel attending. This could possibly be an advantage for evacuation. The type of business within the building can affect evacuation. Fire fighters have stories to tell of the lack of cooperation from the occupants and even the

Reading Assignment See Information below.

Suggested Reading See information below.

Learning Activities (Non-Graded) See information below.

Key Terms 1. Active evacuation

management 2. Core

arrangement/area 3. Egress 4. Egress systems 5. Refuge floor



FIR 4306, Human Behavior in Fire 2



management staff of buildings that house casinos. For some people in a casino, an emergency incident may come at a very inconvenient time – they may have a lot of money on the table or in a slot machine. Additionally, some casinos may be frequented by older adults and these occupants may have physical impairments or mobility limitations that can affect the evacuation. Many hotels offer rooms with a beautiful view from an upper floor. If occupants with physical impairments or severe mobility limitations decide to locate on an upper floor, this could create a major evacuation challenge. Occupants who are dependent on a wheel chair, walker, or crutches may be at a greater risk during evacuation. In addition to their inability to move swiftly, a wheel chair can create a barrier for many of the other occupants. It is a good practice for fire department personnel and building staff to train together for emergency incidents. This joint training venture could help provide the fire fighters with the cooperation they need from the building staff. And it could provide the building staff with assurance they need that the fire fighters understand their needs. Some fire fighters may visit a facility as it is under construction. By including fire fighters in pre-planning tasks, fire fighters have an opportunity to become familiar with a building’s features. These features, if functioning properly, can be of great assistance during future evacuations. The building’s emergency systems can help limit smoke in some areas, ensure lighting, provide for more effective firefighting and rescue, and even enhance the emergency communications. Some fire fighters may be experienced with the evacuation of buildings, while some may lack this experience. Evacuation experience can help prepare the fire fighters for expected and unexpected behavior of the building occupants and the building staff. More training is becoming available to prepare fire fighters for building evacuation challenges. Much of this training may come in-house by the department. Additionally, state fire academies and the National Fire Academy provide training that address the evacuation of buildings. The time of the day can have a great effect on building occupants behavior and the severity of the emergency. Often, a worker, or workers, may choose to work late in their office. If a fire occurs, it may not be quickly detected because only one, or a few workers, are present. There have been cases where a single worker was working very late at night and a fire started, but the worker did not detect the fire until it was in its full-involved stage. Although the worker was normally very familiar with the layout of the building, she quickly became disoriented and was not able to find her way out of the building. Seasonal issues such as climate and weather can affect evacuation procedures. During the spring and summer large hotels in vacation destination areas may experience an increase in occupancy. As the incident commander is forecasting the need for resources, he/she may also have to consider the possibility of moving evacuated occupants to another area. As occupants are moved out into cold or rainy weather, it may be a good practice to have a plan for a safety refuge area. The decision to evacuate the entire building or use refuge areas is one that may require careful consideration and an effective size-up.



FIR 4306, Human Behavior in Fire 3


Reading Assignment Bukowski, R. W. (n.d.). Emergency egress strategies for buildings. Retrieved

from http://www.nist.gov/customcf/get_pdf.cfm?pub_id=861416

Suggested Reading Click here to access the article below. Peacock, R. D, Averill, J. D., & Kuligowski, E. D., (2009). Stairwell evacuation

from buildings: What we know we don’t know (NIST Technical Note 1624). Retrieved from fire.nist.gov/bfrlpubs/fire09/art022.html


Learning Activities (Non-Graded) Take the time to explore the Society of Fire Protection Engineers website at www.sfpe.org. Check into the options of a student membership into this organization. If you chose to create a blog in Unit III, take the time to update it now. Discuss the importance of building design in evacuation procedures. How does understanding human behavior help in evacuation? Would being a member of a professional organization help your understanding of these issues? Why, or why not. Non-graded Learning Activities are provided to aid students in their course of study. You do not have to submit them. If you have questions contact your instructor for further guidance and information.



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