Structure fires accounted for only 35% of these fires (484,500), but they resulted in 84% of the civilian deaths (2,640), 79% of the civilian injuries (15,635) and 83% of the property damage ($9.7 billion). The building and fire regulatory system is complex and comprehensive, which for most buildings results in a generally tolerable level of fire performance.
It also means that unknown or unacceptable life safety or financial loss concerns might exist in any given building, particularly if there are attributes of the building, its occupants, processes or mission, which are not specifically addressed by applicable codes and standards. One way to determine whether such a potential exists is by undertaking a fire risk assessment of the building or facility. In some cases, FRA may be extended to assessment of options to mitigate the risk (either through reducing the likelihood of occurrence or magnitude of consequences), although this is also part of the risk management process. One framework for the FRA process is shown in Figure 1.4 Figure 1. Fire Risk Assessment Process4 Risk Assessment Objectives, Metrics and Thresholds Some of the most important steps in the FRA process are identifying the objectives of the risk assessment, the measure(s) that will be used to express risk, and how the risk measures will be presented or communicated for decision making purposes. Characterizing the population and their risk thresholds is important as it will help drive scenarios of consideration and risk estimation and evaluation later in the process. What one chooses to address can influence the assessment, and whether or not all scenarios of concern are selected will depend on the focus. One might also choose fire-per-building type, risk of untenable conditions, or some other metric. If the potential for undesirable consequences of the hazard manifests in an occurrence, that constitutes an event. A contributing hazard might be an earthquake, which could cause the heating equipment to come in contact with an unintended fuel source. If the fuel ignites because the heating equipment was knocked over in an earthquake, that is an event. However, they can also make use of historical data, from similar operations or occupancies, at least to benchmark the process. Qualitative approaches treat both frequencies and consequences qualitatively, and include methods such as risk matrices and risk indices. The NFPA Fire Safety Evaluation System,8 the risk matrix approach in MIL-STD-882D,9 and the risk binning approach outlined in DOE-STD-300910 are examples of this. Example Frequency Criteria Used for Probability Ranking11 Figure 2.


Consequence Ranking, Frequency Ranking and Risk Matrix11 Semi-quantitative approches combine quantitative and qualitative aspects. Event tree analysis (ETA) is often used to analyze complex situations with several possible scenarios, where several fire or life safety systems are in place or are being considered.
Event trees are developed for a scenario, with frequencies and consequences described, and the risk then estimated. These approaches are often employed within the insurance industry and by facility management to balance acceptance, mitigation, transfer, or avoidance decisions. Rather, they are directed at assisting practitioners in selecting the appropriate methodology for any given building and ensuring that the process of risk assessment and approval is undertaken in a proper engineering manner. The document provides guidance on the selection and use of risk assessment techniques and provides a recommended process to follow. The SFPE Fire Risk Assessment Guide does not specify particular risk assessment methods or techniques. However, it highlights A recommended process for fire risk assessment (Figure 1) Tools that may be used for hazard identification Sources of data for risk assessment Approaches to consequence modeling Methods for calculating fire risk Documentation of fire risk assessment The SFPE Guide is structured to follow the flowchart represented in Figure 1, providing guidance and information association with each step in the process. This information is supported with many references and a comprehensive list of information sources for further reading for each step of the risk assessment process. This guidance document is directed at those responsible for approving or evaluating fire and life safety solutions based on a fire risk assessment. It provides a framework that describes the properties of a fire risk assessment, particularly where it is being used in a performance-based regulatory framework.
As a result, this guide is suited to a building or fire official or other authority having jurisdiction required to evaluate or approve a building design where the design is being supported by a fire risk assessment.
Like the SFPE Engineering Guide: Fire Risk Assessment, NFPA 551 neither specifies particular fire risk assessment methods nor attempts to set acceptance criteria. Rather, it sets out the technical review process and documentation that should be used by those evaluating or approving. NFPA 551 Review Process (Reprinted with permission from NFPA 551-2013, Guide for the Evaluation of Fire Risk Assessments, Copyright © 2013, National Fire Protection Association, Quincy, MA.
This reprinted material is not the complete and official position of the NFPA on the referenced subject, which is represented only by the guide in its entirety.) NFPA 551 defines five categories of fire risk assessment methods in order of increasing complexity, namely Qualitative methods Semi-qualitative criteria-based methods Semi-qualitative consequence methods Quantitative methods Cost-benefit risk methods It highlights the importance of identifying the objectives of any fire risk assessment and other factors that should be considered by those undertaking fire risk assessments.
For each of the five categories of methods, the characteristics of each approach are identified, and issues of inputs and outputs, assumptions and limitations, selection of fire scenarios, and uncertainty are discussed.


A framework for the application of fire safety engineering principles for the design of buildings is provided within BS 7974.
The final document, Part 7, provides guidance for the probabilistic risk assessment of buildings.14 The document provides a framework for risk assessment commensurate with a number of approaches. Specifically, the document provides guidance with regard to acceptance criteria for life safety and financial assessments, which may use either comparative or absolute methodologies. The principles and concepts outlined in the standard can be applied to any fire safety objectives, including life safety, conservation of property, business continuity, preservation of heritage, and protection of the environment. In ISO 16732-1, principles underlying the quantification of risk are presented in terms of the steps to be taken in conducting a fire risk assessment. These quantification steps are initially placed in the context of the overall management of fire risk and then explained within the context of fire safety engineering. As described by ISO 16732-1, risk management includes risk assessment, but also typically includes risk treatment, risk acceptance, and risk communication (see Figure 4). As another indicator of the growing interest in fire risk assessment, and the desire for information relative to tools and techniques for fire risk assessment, a number of textbooks have been published in the last decade.
11, 2001, the text Extreme Event Mitigation in Buildings: Analysis and Design17 was published to provide a resource for understanding and assessing building performance under extreme events.
While not focused solely on fire, the text provides information on assessing likelihood of occurrence, potential impacts, and strategies for mitigation for a wide range of extreme events – natural, technological, and deliberate, while aiming to achieve a balance of acceptable levels of risk, performance, and cost. The text outlines how risk-informed performance-based analyses can be used to help make important risk mitigation decisions.
This book was authored by an expert in the field who has developed models for fire risk assessment. Risk Analysis in Building Fire Safety Engineering, Butterworth-Heinemann, Oxford, England, 2007. Principles of Fire Risk Assessment in Buildings, John Wiley & Sons Ltd, Chichester, England, 2008.



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