Fatal Residential Fires - Prevention and Response

Project: Dissertation

Project Details


Fatal fires in residential occupancies show a decreasing trend over time, but are still responsible for taking
approximately 90 lives in Sweden each year. Much is known about the victims, but less is known about how these
deaths can be prevented. There is research on the effectiveness of different measures, but generally they are populationaverage
effectiveness and, since different groups are known to be subject to quite different scenarios, this effectiveness
is not necessarily representative of the effectiveness for any specific group. Therefore, group-specific effectiveness is
derived in this thesis. The results indicate that smoke alarms are effective for most groups, but additional measures are
needed for some groups. This is particularly true for older adults, for whom synthetic clothes and detector-activated
sprinklers are highly effective.
Also, responses to potentially fatal fires in residential occupancies are almost missing from the literature and were
therefore analysed in the thesis. The conclusion was that fire services saved 51 lives during the studied year (2017),
which indicates that the number of fatalities in residential occupancies would have increased by 58% in that year
without fire service responses. Response time was found to be important, but also what the crew could perform on
arrival at each scene, because many were developed fires that required breathing apparatus to perform the rescue. In
another study, responses by other actors were also included for older adults (65+), indicating that, in addition to the
fire service, neighbours are very important, but for the oldest individuals home care also played an important role.

Layman's description

switch to clothes with synthetic fibres could save many lives, since
synthetic clothes are very difficult to ignite with a cigarette. This is because synthetic
fabric tend to melt away from the cigarette instead of igniting. They also generally
give less severe burn injuries if ignited. Also, detector-activated sprinkler systems
were highly effective and provided the highest benefit per installation of all measures
for that group.
One interesting additional finding was that approximately 20% of the victims of
fatal fires could have safely evacuated, but did not, primarily trying to extinguish
the fire instead. This might indicate a need to investigate how to alter behaviour so
that individuals only try to extinguish a fire when it is safe to do so.
Fatal Residential Fires – Prevention and Response
The thesis also include novel findings in relation to the response to potentially fatal
fires. One study investigated fire service response, finding that the fire service saved
51 lives during the studied year (2017), which indicates that the number of fire
fatalities in residential occupancies would have increased by 58% in that year
without a fire service response. The study also found that response time was very
important, as were the tasks the unit can perform on arrival at the scene since, in
many cases, the crew arrived to a situation that required breathing apparatus to
perform the rescue.
The final study investigated response in a broader perspective, with a focus on older
adults (65+), but not limited to any specific actor. The result showed that at least
53% of the individuals depended on other actors for successful evacuation. In the
majority of those cases (27%) first-responders performed the evacuation, with
neighbours as the next largest group (18%). However, neighbours were also very
important for notifying the first-responders because they alerted them in 50% of
the cases with first-responder-evacuation. This makes cues that might alert
neighbours (e.g. smelling smoke or hearing a smoke alarm) very important. Home
care performed fewer rescues (8%) but was found to be very important for the oldest
group (80+).
Six scientific research papers are appended to this thesis. The research in these papers
is presented and discussed in the thesis.
Effective start/end date2014/09/012020/01/23

UKÄ subject classification

  • Engineering and Technology