Residential Fire Risk

Fire is the visible effect of the process of combustion – a special type of chemical reaction. It occurs between oxygen in the air and some sort of fuel. When a fire occurs, there is a very little time to escape for it engulfs everything in its ambit in less than 2 minutes. Contrary to popular belief, over 90% of fire related deaths are caused by smoke suffocation. According to the World Health Organization (WHO) statistics, more than 300,000 deaths are caused annually by fire induced burns and more than 90% of these deaths occur in low- and middle-income countries. These figures clearly shows that fire poses serious threat to both life and property. Fire hazards can be understood as any actions, materials or conditions that might increase the size or severity of a fire or that might cause a fire to start. Of all the natural disasters, fit is fire only that is both beneficial to man and his environment as well as destructive and deadly.

Sun and Lao (2014) assert that fire risk analysis of high-rise building is of crucial importance due to the reason that there still lacks efficient systematic fire extinguish method to ensure a safety evacuation process. They further elaborated that fire risk assessment is an organized and methodical review of a specific building, the activities carried that increase the likelihood of a fire to start and cause harm to the occupants and properties. The fire risk assessment involves five steps – hazard identification, scenario design fire, quantitative risk analysis, risk assessment comparing to acceptable criteria and risk management. They highlighted the point that fire scenario is a key parameter of the whole fire risk assessment process – which involves a combination of potential fire size, fire location, combustible characteristics, availability of fire system etc. They further emphasized through their study based on China that risk analysis is important to evaluate fire protection strategies for a particular application or for a class of facility or operation in fire safety engineering. Beside this, the risk assessment will assist the stakeholders and operator to manage the facilities in a right way.

A comparative study regarding the level of fire safety between Residential and Commercial Construction sites were carried out by Sivakumar, Malathy and Sivaprakash (2018). The study brought the point that residential building satisfies overall fire safety conditions better than commercial buildings. However, combustible materials are stored and maintained in a better manner in commercial buildings than residential buildings and tend to satisfy overall structural feature parameters when compared to residential buildings. Moreover, the study highlighted that fire emergency, signage and emergency planning in commercial buildings are better than in residential buildings. They asserted that, however, both the commercial and residential buildings need to focus more on reducing risk and on improving fire safety and fire risk assessment standards and compliances regarding the protection of people working in the construction sites.

Huang and Xin (2013) in their paper based on China presents fire risk analysis model-based scenario clusters and its application in fire risk management of buildings. The paper has described the quantitative analysis model for fire risk analysis. They bring out the point that fire risk analysis method allows a quick check of any safety deficiencies in residential buildings and any need to provide additional fire protection measures to minimize fire risk. However, they argue that the method does not include consideration of the logical development of fire events. Moreover, the quantification parameters of fire risk are based on statistical data (if available). Thus, they assert that more research is required to verify the methods of some parameters in international contexts. The paper also conformed to the idea that building fire risk analysis serves as a basis for fire risk management.

Masoumi, Genderen and Maleki (2019) attempted to carry a comprehensive fire risk assessment in the dense urban areas of Zanjan city using Information Fusion based on GIS modeling. The study has highlighted the increasing importance of information fusion technologies for the analysis of geospatial information. The use of different types of spatial and attribute data from different sources deploying GIS and geospatial analyses can act as powerful tools to aggregate information in order to assess disaster risk in urban and regional scales. The result of sensitivity analyses also indicated that the social training factor is the most effective causative factor in the fire risk.

Kodur, Kumar and Rafi (2019) in their paper, ‘Fire hazard in buildings: review, assessment and strategies for improving fire safety,’ presents a critical review of current fire protection measures and their applicability to address current challenges relating to fire hazards in buildings. Based on the review, an integrated framework for mitigation of fire hazards is proposed. The proposed framework involves enhancement of fire safety in four key areas: fire protection features in buildings, regulation and enforcement, consumer awareness and technology and resources advancement. Detailed strategies on improving fire safety in buildings in these four key areas are presented, and future research and training needs are identified. The study has brought forth the point that Current fire protection measures lead to an unquantified level of fire safety in buildings, provide minimal strategies to mitigate fire hazard and do not account for contemporary fire hazard issues. They highlighted that Implementing key measures that include reliable fire protection systems, proper regulation and enforcement of building code provisions, enhancement of public awareness and proper use of technology and resources is key to mitigating fire hazard in buildings. Major research and training required to improve fire safety in buildings include developing cost-effective fire suppression systems and rational fire design approaches, characterizing new materials and developing performance-based codes.

Groner (2015) in his paper describes a decision model for managing the movement of building occupants during fir emergencies. The study assert that sophisticated education and training would improve the responses of occupant movement managers. Accepting that it is unlikely for a great increase in resources being dedicated to it, the study forwards a ‘simple mental model’ – which should help occupant movement managers avoid mistakes in both planning for and responding to fire emergencies. The research assert that the model relies on the abilities of people to analyse and synthesize inputs and people are notably effective at this task given a mental model that is simple enough to easily recall.

Among different types of disasters, fire constitutes a significant threat to life and property in any type of settlement whether urban or rural possession. In India, the data on fire related deaths are provided by National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) under Accidental Deaths & Suicides in India (ADSI). According to study conducted by India Risk Survey in 2018, Fire outbreak is the third largest risk to be faced by the people in continuity of operations on the other hand the Accidental Deaths and Suicides in India report, 2019 states that residential buildings are most prone to fire outbreaks due to faulty behaviour of residents. According to ADSI reported 11,037 cases of fire accidents in the country during 2019 which rendered 10915 deaths and injuries to 441 persons. The cause-wise analysis of fire accidents revealed that 58.0% of total deaths were reported in residential/dwelling buildings during the mentioned year. The residential fire risks arise from both inappropriate structural attributes and faulty behavioural practices like using nonstandard electrical goods, no capacity building in case of disaster, congestion in residential localities and no maintenance of electrical equipment’s.

Cities across India are growing at exuberant rates. However, as we build new cities and expand old ones, we must not forget the necessary features that make up these urban spaces. Fire safety is crucial in urban and rural habitats, and there must be continued investments in equipment and infrastructure to guarantee the safety of the residents. It’s time our civic authorities, town planners and fire service officials pay more attention to fire safety in residential colonies and ensure that they have at least some rudimentary fire engines. It is also important to educate residents on dealing with a fire. Along with these, fire risk assessment should be duly done to ensure proper evacuation plan as well as the adoption of all possible best measure to prevent fires. This will go a long way in saving life.

In India, though there are several rules and laws, codes and standards associated with fire safety, these are rarely followed. Neglective behaviour in following fire safety measures caused several major fires in numerous occupancies and a few of them even resulted in catastrophes, however, there aren’t any provisions for fire safety legislation in India regarding the objectives, scope, methodology, and periodicity of the Fire Safety Audit.

Home is a place where you build memories and seeing it burning down to ashes can be the most terrifying event in one’s life. Though a scary thought, a lot can be done to prevent fire from happening. Fire Hazard in the residential buildings are the most common hazard especially because of the ignorance on the part of the residents. Even if we cannot control anything and everything, however, we can take some steps to help reduce the chances of fire from occurring as well to reduce the smoke damage.


Groner, N. (2016). A Decision Model for Recommending which Building Occupants should Move where During Fire Emergencies. Fire Safety Journal, 20-29.

Kodur, V. K. (2019). Fire Hazards in Building: Review, Assessments and Strategies for Improving Fire Safety. PSU Research Review, 4(1), 1-23.

Mausoumi, Z. G. (2019). Fire Risk Assessment in Dense Urban Areas Using Information Fusion Techniques. International Journal of Geo-Information(8), 2-20.

Ministry of Home Affairs. (2020). Accidental Deaths and Suicide in India, 2019. New Delhi: National Crime Records Bureau.

Sivakumar, C. M. (2018). A Study on Fire Safety on Residential and Commercial        Construction Sites. Archives of Civil Engineering, LXIV(2), 161-174.

Sun, X. L. (2014). Fire Risk Assessment for Super High- Rise Buildings. Procedia Engineering, 492-501.

Xin, J. H. (2013). Fire Risk Analysis of Residential Buildings based on Scenario Clusters and its Application in Fire Risk Management. Fire Safety Journal, 72-78.

Image Credit: Google