RESPONSE TO FIRE ALARM SIGNALS AND EVACUATION COMPLIANCE BY OCCUPANTS OF ALARM PROTECTED PROPERTIES: ARE FIRE ALARM SYSTEMS ADEQUATE

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RESPONSE TO FIRE ALARM SIGNALS AND EVACUATION COMPLIANCE BY OCCUPANTS OF ALARM PROTECTED PROPERTIES:

ARE FIRE ALARM SYSTEMS ADEQUATE

EXECUTIVE DEVELOPMENT

BY: Christopher Silver Hampton Fire Rescue Hampton, New Hampshire

An applied research project submitted to the National Fire Academy as part of the Executive Fire Officer Program.

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Abstract

Hampton Fire Rescue had observed a decrease in evacuation compliance by occupants in response to fire alarm signals. The problem was that Hampton Fire Rescue did not know if fire alarm systems were adequate in protecting the safety of building occupants during fire emergencies. The purpose of the research was to determine what additional fire protection measures were needed to improve the safety of building occupants during evacuation in response to fire alarm signals. Through descriptive research, the following questions were answered:

1. Why do building occupants fail to react appropriately to fire alarm signals? 2. How can occupant response to fire alarm signals be improved?

3. What additional fire protection measures can improve the safety of building occupants during evacuation?

The procedures included an extensive literature review and distribution of a questionnaire to obtain information about how occupants reacted to fire alarm activations.

The results of the questionnaire supported the findings of the literature review. It was found that appropriate occupant response to fire alarm activations was a problem. Fire alarm systems alone did not adequately protect the safety of building occupants.

Recommendations included adoption of a performance-based code, use of discriminate fire alarm detector technology, required use of the Temporal-Three alarm signal, increased public education regarding the T-3 signal and appropriate response, improved measures to ensure proper operation of fire alarm systems, procedures to ensure safe egress pathways, development of emergency evacuation plans including the use of voice communication systems, and installation of automatic sprinkler systems.

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Table of Contents

Abstract 2

Table of Contents 3

Introduction 4

Background and Significance 5

Literature Review 8 Procedures 20 Results 24 Discussion 29 Recommendations 36 References 38

Appendix A Fire Alarm Experience Survey 42

Appendix B Questionnaire Sample Properties 44

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Introduction

Smoke detectors, fire detection, and fire alarm systems have long been considered important features of fire codes. Compliance with modern fire codes, such as National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) 101 Life Safety Code, 2000 Edition is generally met with much less difficulty in new construction than in existing buildings. Johnson (2003) reports “in most communities, building construction in any year represents less than 2 percent of the total number of buildings” (Johnson, 2003, p. 1-34). Johnson goes on to state “given the 2 percent rate of new buildings, at any time, at least 50 percent of the building population is likely to be more than 30 years in age” (Johnson, 2003, p. 1-34). As codes and construction methods are updated, many of these older buildings that were designed to meet earlier requirements become unsafe by modern standards.

Hampton Fire Rescue requires the installation of smoke detectors and fire alarm systems in all newly constructed buildings and has required most existing building to install these systems in an attempt to provide some measure of fire protection for building occupants. The problem is that Hampton Fire Rescue does not know if fire alarm systems are adequate in protecting the safety of building occupants during fire emergencies. The purpose of this research is to determine what additional fire protection measures are needed to improve the safety of building occupants during evacuation in response to fire alarm signals. This is a descriptive research project. The research questions are:

1. Why do building occupants fail to react appropriately to fire alarm signals? 2. How can occupant response to fire alarm signals be improved?

3. What additional fire protection measures can improve the safety of building occupants during evacuation?

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Background and Significance

The Town of Hampton, New Hampshire is a suburban community located along the Atlantic Ocean. Hampton is subject to several hazards; the most significant is the high potential for life and property loss from fire. The Insurance Services Office (ISO)

described Hampton as an area with high potential for conflagration (ISO, 1972). Hampton Beach is a popular tourist destination where approximately 100,000 people visit per day during the summer months. This district is our highest life hazard area and “consists principally of occupancies inherent to a resort area; mercantile, restaurants, rooming houses, hotels, dance halls, and amusement centers” (ISO, 1972, p. 6). During the off-season this area is home to a substantial transient low socioeconomic population. These residents live in many buildings not intended for year round occupancy thus creating a great disparity between reported permanent year-round residents and the actual number of residents. This presents several problems, including informing the vacationing public of potential hazards and providing adequate emergency services with a department staffed to provide services for a permanent population of 15,000.

First records of fire fighting date back to the early 1830’s, however, it was not until the beach area became heavily developed at the turn of the century that the community seriously considered fire protection. In 1907 the citizens of the beach area petitioned the State of New Hampshire and became a precinct for the purpose of

providing fire protection to this newly developed area. The next year a village fire district was formed (W. Sullivan, personal communication, July 2003). While it would be several years for this village fire district to become well organized, this formation of two distinct fire districts within the town created many political obstacles in the years that followed.

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Initially organized under the direction of a Board of Fire Commissioners, the beach precinct appointed the first volunteer fire chief in 1912. After the first of three major conflagrations occurred in 1915 the precinct appointed it’s first permanent, full time fire chief in 1916. Recognizing the importance of early notification of fire, a municipal fire alarm box system was installed in 1917. In 1921 the second major conflagration would devastate another large area of the beach precinct. The following year a new fire station was constructed and four permanent, full time firefighters were added (W. Sullivan, personal communication, July 2003).

During the next 30 years several major fires occurred prompting the village district to become better organized. A second fire station was added in the village district with the addition of more permanent, full time personnel. In July 1950 the third major conflagration occurred destroying yet another substantial area of the beach precinct, thus proving that Hampton is subject to great loss.

It was not until the 1970’s that Hampton Fire Rescue began to recognize the importance of fire prevention. Under the direction of Fire Chief Paul Long the

department began to inspect hotels and rooming houses for overcrowding. In 1971, by vote of Town Meeting, the town adopted the Fire Prevention Code (W. Sullivan, personal communication, July 2003). While these additions were considered by some to be a significant improvement to fire prevention, enforcement of the codes proved to be quite difficult with property owners in the beach precinct.

In 1980 attempts to enforce code requirements were met with significant resistance. Many beach precinct property owners were displeased with the requirement for code compliance and reluctant to spend money on fire protection measures. Efforts by

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many beach precinct property owners resulted in removal of funding for the Fire Prevention Officer from the fire department budget. The Fire Prevention Officer subsequently filed a lawsuit against the Town of Hampton claiming the position was unlawfully cut. The Rockingham County Superior Court ruled that the position could only be eliminated by a decision of the voters. The following year, by a majority vote at Town Meeting, the position of Fire Prevention Officer was re-instated (R. Ballou, personal communication, July 2003).

In 1982, State Fire Marshal Tom Dawson commissioned a task force, which included Hampton’s Fire Prevention Officer, to make recommendations specifically addressing the installation of smoke detectors in nursing homes. This task force concluded with recommendations for smoke detectors to be installed in all buildings occupied by people (R. Ballou, personal communication, July 2003).

To improve the safety of the visitors to Hampton Beach the Fire Prevention Officer immediately began requiring installation of smoke detectors in residential and assembly occupancies. These past efforts initially proved effective. Fatalities, injuries, and incidence of occupants being trapped in buildings were reduced.

During the following years, fire department personnel began observing a decrease in evacuation compliance by occupants in response to fire alarm signals. At the present time the administration of Hampton Fire Rescue is concerned that any delay in

evacuation can significantly increase the risk to occupants. Cooper (1980), Klevan (1982), and Frantzich (1998) recognized that while the rate of fire growth is not easily predicted, conditions may quickly become untenable for occupants thus reducing time

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available for safe egress. A delay initiating evacuation inherently increases the risk to occupants as the fire develops over time.

This applied research project will examine why occupants do not respond to fire alarm signals appropriately and how their response can be improved. Additionally, this research will identify what fire protection measures can improve the safety of occupants during evacuation. The results of this research will be used to support recommendations and changes to the Town of Hampton Fire Codes and Ordinances. The future impact to Hampton Fire Rescue will be improved safety for the visitors and residents of Hampton.

This applied research project directly relates to the ethical responsibilities of the public sector. The Ethics unit taught in the Executive Development Course at the National Fire Academy (NFA) Executive Fire Officer Program (EFOP) begins with the Athenian Oath which states “we will transmit this city not only not less, but greater, better and more beautiful than it was transmitted to us” (NFA, 1998, p. SM 8-4). We have a responsibility to do the best we can to provide for the safety of our community.

This applied research project relates to the United States Fire Administration Operational Objectives “Reducing the loss of life from fire in the age group 14 years old and below” and “Reducing the loss of life from fire in the age group 65 years old and above” (NFA, 2002, p. II-2).

Literature Review

A major component of fire detection and protection systems has been the fire alarm system. Fire alarm systems have been designed with four principal objectives including warning occupants of fire, prompting immediate action, initiating evacuation, and responding early enough to provide sufficient time for occupants to escape (Proulx,

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2000). It is interesting that a system intended to improve safety and protect occupants from the dangers of smoke and fire is so often ignored. The purpose of this literature review is to provide sufficient information to answer three basic questions.

First, why do building occupants fail to react appropriately to fire alarm signals? Occupants must first be able to hear and recognize the sound of a fire alarm signal. Chubb (2000) found that some manufacturers’ smoke detectors failed to pass an Underwriters Laboratory, Inc. requirement for the alarm sounder to awaken occupants. Kahn (1984) found that remotely located smoke alarms “will not necessarily present a cue sufficient to awaken a person” (Kahn, 1984, p. 26). In another study (Proulx, 2000) it was found that “in some instances occupants could not hear the signal from inside their apartments” (Proulx, 2000, p. 3).

Ramachandran (1991) and the National Fire Academy (1999) found that an occupant must not only identify the sound as a fire alarm signal, but also interpret the alarm to indicate an actual emergency.

Pauls and Jones (1980) state “a simple fire alarm system … confuses as much as it informs” (Pauls and Jones, 1980, p. 38).

With numerous different types of fire alarm sounders occupants have frequently mistaken the alarm for some other non-emergency signal such as a security door warning (Proulx, 2000).

Groner (1998) reported that many fire-safety experts recognize the poor response to fire alarm signals. Researchers suggest that “people instinctually want to delay

responding to a threatening situation until the danger is well understood” (Groner, 1998, People don’t always respond to alarms, ¶ 2). Alarm signals alone do not provide

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sufficient information for occupants to make accurate decisions about whether or not to evacuate immediately (Groner 1998).

Sime, Breaux, and Canter (1979) also found that individuals will often misinterpret or ignore ambiguous clues and are more likely to engage in further investigation rather than immediate evacuation. They write:

Individuals are most likely to be interrupted in their pre-event activity by hearing strange noises. It is less likely for the individual … to be alerted by the smoke or fire itself. If this happens the existence of fire is perceived as less ambiguous and investigative activity is less likely to occur. (Sime, Breaux, and Canter, 1979, p. 17)

In a study (Proulx, 1998) of a fire incident within a high-rise building it was noted that only a small percentage of occupants began evacuation after hearing the fire alarm signal. Most of the occupants treated the alarm as a warning then waited for additional information before deciding to evacuate.

Canter and Matthews (1976) found that occupants must recognize the existence of a threat before appropriate action will be taken. Canter and Matthews go on to state:

The speed with which an individual recognises [sic] cues to a fire may well be related to the degree to which he anticipates his being in a potential fire situation. The effectiveness of his behaviour [sic] in a fire will relate then to the degree to which he is prepared for the eventuality of a fire. (Canter and Matthews, 1976, p. 8)

It had been reported to Bryan (1977) by fire department officials “that occupants frequently are reluctant to leave certain occupancies … especially when the physical

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stimulus of the fire incidents are not positively threatening of a serious fire occurrence” (Bryan, 1977, p. 161).

Tong and Canter (1985) concluded that occupants who are presented with ambiguous information consistently would first investigate to determine the severity of the threat.

As occupants investigate for physical cues they are also observing social

determinants such as the behavior of other people. The number of other people present, their relationship to the occupant, or the authoritative or leadership role of others (Bickman, Edelman, and McDaniel, 1977) may affect these determinants.

Sime, Breaux, and Canter (1979, p. 11) similarly state “reactions to cues are determined also by the ongoing activity of individuals and the response of others present”.

Tong and Canter (1985) also noted that individuals responded quicker than a group of occupants when presented with vague or unclear clues.

The NFA reaffirms these earlier findings by stating “The greater the ambiguity in the meaning of an alarm signal … the more people will examine the behavior of other people to interpret the situation” (NFA, 1999, p. CG 7-19).

Proulx (2000) cites nuisance alarms as a cause for the poor response to fire alarm signals. “The problem with nuisance alarms is that, after a time, occupants tend to lose confidence in the system” (Proulx, 2000, p. 2).

Bryan (1977) found “that activation of the evacuation fire alarms in apartment buildings is often a relatively frequent occurrence” (Bryan, 1977, p. 43). Bryan (1977)

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also noted that in this situation building occupants were less likely to evacuate in response to the fire alarm until they were required to do so by the fire department.

Groner (1998) also indicated that the majority of alarms experienced by occupants are drills and false alarms. This experience “mitigates their fear that there is any real danger” (Groner, 1998, People don’t always respond to alarms, ¶ 3).

The NFA reported findings consistent with Groner, “Most people have learned over time that a fire alarm signal means that there is only a small chance that there is an actual fire--if they even recognize the signal as a fire alarm in the first place” (NFA, 1999, p. CG 8-13).

Vogt (2002) also confirmed Groner’s findings while interviewing residents of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Burton-Conner Dormitory. Many residents indicated that because of the high frequency of false alarms they would probably not leave the building the next time the fire alarm sounds.

Canter and Matthews (1976) also noted that “in one large scale drill some

occupants reported afterwards that they initially construed the situation as a drill, but that when the voice on the intercom giving instructions appeared flustered, they decided there was a real fire” (Canter and Matthews, 1976, p.7).

Canter and Matthews (1976) made another interesting observation. “There is some evidence (Hollis, 1973) that a suprisingly [sic] high proportion of people who are at the source of a fire and fail to escape unharmed fail to recognize the danger because their preparedness is impaired by alcohol” (Canter and Matthews, 1976, p. 9).

The NFA supported this finding by stating “occupants in transitory living situations, such as hotels, may be unfamiliar with the physical setting and may be

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physiologically vulnerable because of fatigue or alcohol consumption, thus increasing the risks” (NFA, 1999, p. CG 7-12).

In summary, the quantity of information previously written about this subject clearly indicates that poor occupant response to fire alarms is in fact a problem. The literature review significantly influenced this research by identifying several reasons why occupants fail to react appropriately to fire alarm signals.

Next, how can occupant response to fire alarm signals be improved?

Improving occupant response to fire alarms must examine two important issues, modifying human behavior and improved use of existing as well as future technology.

“It is stressed by some that the efficiency of fire and smoke detectors cannot be considered separately from the reactions of the individual” (Sime, Breaux, and Canter, 1979, p. 2).

Groner (1998) suggests that to improve the occupant response to a fire alarm signal there is a need to decrease the ambiguity of alarm signals. It is important for people to recognize that an alarm signals real danger.

The NFA (1999) recognized that standardizing the alarm signal would reduce the uncertainty occupants have in identifying an alarm as indication of an emergency. A recommendation to create a single signal met resistance by manufacturers who would be required to undergo major retrofitting to produce a different alarm signal. An alternative was proposed which required a “coded” signal. This requirement would permit different sounds, but all would produce the same code such as three short bursts followed by a brief pause then repeated. “However, many devices still are incapable of producing a

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coded signal, so attempts to use the code approach have been unsuccessful” (NFA, 1999, p. CG 7-18).

Proulx (2000) agrees that a single sound pattern such as the Temporal-Three pattern can improve occupant response by reducing the possibility of confusing a fire alarm with other non-emergent alarms.

In a more recent study, Proulx (2003) states “the response to the signal will still need to be learned, and probably will still need to be prompted by voice communication instructions or by the behavior and direction given by staff” (Proulx, 2003, p. 80). Proulx goes on to suggest that elementary and high schools be immediately upgraded to include the Temporal-Three alarm signal. “Children would rapidly learn the sound pattern of the T-3 and they would be taught the associated meaning and behavior, which they should be able to transfer to other buildings that they would visit in the future” (Proulx, 2003, p. 80).

Regulations now require verbal alarm systems in certain occupancies. These systems provide unequivocal information to occupants. Reducing the indistinctness of the alarm signal results in greater compliance and response by occupants (NFA, 1999).

In a study (Proulx, 1998) of the effectiveness of voice communication systems it was identified that in one incident the majority of occupants who first attempted to evacuate did so after receiving a voice communication system message. Very few began evacuation after only hearing the fire alarm signal.

“Evacuation can be facilitated by a communications system designed to show which areas of a building have been evacuated and the where-abouts [sic] of people

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waiting to be rescued. Such a system enables rescues to be effected in the minimum time and at the minimum risk to fire brigade personnel” (Melinek and Booth, 1975, p. 5).

Research conducted by Proulx (1998) and Sime (2001) confirmed that

instructions given over voice communication systems were more effective than fire alarm signals alone. Additionally, Proulx states:

The occupants placed considerable trust in the information received over the voice communication system….especially if this means of providing information has been accurate in the past and, if the message comes from a person in which they have confidence or from figures of authority such as the fire department. (Proulx, 1998, p. CG 8-40)

Groner (1998) noted that fire safety professionals recommend conservative, but better use of pre-alarm signals. These systems allow alarms to be quickly and safely evaluated prior to ordering an evacuation of a building. Additionally, Groner (1998) stated “surprise fire drills tend to make people less likely to believe that an alarm signal indicates an actual fire” (Groner, 1998, People don’t always respond to alarms, ¶ 11).

By providing building occupants with accurate information regarding the cause of a false alarm and what actions are being taken to prevent them, the occupant’s confidence in the ability of the alarm signal to indicate a real emergency is not diminished (Groner 1998).

The NFA supported Groner (1998) by stating “good training and accurate

information early in the fire incident would alleviate much of the problem” (NFA, 1999, p. CG 8-19).

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In summary, it has been written that occupant response to fire alarm signals can be improved by providing uniform alarm signals, accurate information about the nature of the emergency, and educating occupants of the expected behavior required for evacuating buildings safely and quickly.

Finally, what additional fire protection measures can improve the safety of building occupants during evacuation?

Occupancies with modern, more sophisticated alarm systems, installed automatic fire suppression systems, and building design features which provide containment of smoke and fire generally “provide a greater margin of safety for building occupants and encourage adaptive behavior” (NFA, 1999, p. CG 7-14).

Prowse (1999), product manager for Siemens Fire Safety Division, describes new developments in detector technology. New detectors can “compare information received from the environment with embedded fire data formulas” (Prowse, 1999, More

discriminating, ¶ 1). These formulas enable the detector to reject erroneous signals without delay thereby reducing the number of false alarms. Additionally, these detectors are well suited to installation in specific environments with high expectancy for false alarms. Such environments may include cigarette smoke, dust, high air velocity in ventilation ducts, welding, and vehicle exhaust emissions.

Prowse (1999) also indicates the addition of a variety of sensors that may initially detect smoke for early warning, then detect the heat of a rapidly developing fire.

Prowse states:

A trigger from the smoke portion of the detector can trigger the system to alert nearby occupants while going into a standby mode. When the thermal element

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goes into alarm, the system immediately acts to evacuate the entire floor, wing or building - a particularly useful arrangement in a hotel or multiple tenancy

building. (Prowse, 1999, Adding thermistor technology, ¶ 2)

The use of a differential warning signal to indicate the level of potential danger may prove more effective than an indiscriminate signal. An announcement that an alarm has been received would advise occupants to stay on alert in the event evacuation is necessary. Use of such a system would provide better information to occupants regarding the accuracy of the alarm. In the event the alarm signal were false, it would be necessary to immediately inform the occupants (NFA, 1999).

The NFA goes on to state:

Many fire officials dislike the idea of delaying evacuation while someone verifies them. However, when fire officials do not allow verification, building personnel may use poor procedures. More dangerous still, building personnel may simply override alarm signals without attempting verification, a procedure that has led to tragedies. (NFA, 1999, p. CG 7-21)

Sime, Breaux, and Canter (1979) have recognized the importance of pre-planning and escape planning. The Howard Johnson’s Hotel fire in Orlando, Florida documents the importance of this planning.

Timoney (1984) states:

The credit for the prompt reaction of hotel employees to this fire belongs to the management and employees of Howard Johnson’s and the Orlando Fire

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opportunity to participate in a comprehensive fire prevention/education program. (Timoney, 1984, p. 44)

The NFA (1999) recommends that this planning include the development of fire and smoke safe areas and elevators including the education and drilling of the occupants to use these areas during emergencies in which evacuation is required.

Groner (1998) indicates that a building design “that considers the decision-making needs of the building occupants can lead to buildings that help people help themselves during fire emergencies” (Groner, 1998, To stay or leave your room?, ¶ 5).

Because occupants will often attempt to exit from a building by familiar routes, an alternate, safer means of escape may often be overlooked despite the existence of posted floor plans. This can be overcome through training that emphasizes the meaning of “exit”. Improved design of signs and other markings can “make exits more noticeable and to make them appear as safer ways to evacuate a building” (Groner, 1998, Safest Way Out, ¶ 3).

“To date, most fire codes and standards have been prescriptive in nature, but this is changing - performance-type requirements are slowly finding their way into the codes” (Corbett and Farr, 2003, p. 1055). Prescriptive codes describe only one way a

requirement can be met whereas a performance code indicates the requirement, but, leaves the decision about how to comply to local jurisdictions. There are often several different ways of meeting the same requirement (Corbett and Farr, 2003).

In the case of performance codes, researchers will often use calculation based methods in determining evacuation times in response to fire alarm signals. (NFA, 1999).

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Sime (2001) argues that calculation-based methods rely heavily on a stimulus response model in which people are assumed to react. “People are modelled [sic] as if they are non-thinking objects or bodies in situ or moving towards and through exits” (Sime, 2001, p. 15). Sime (2001) goes on to say that the occupant response model is equally important. Fire protection engineers must consider the behavior of people in addition to the physical environment. Sime (2001) concludes that a performance-based design that considers both models would be most effective.

Frantzich (1998) writes that a delay initiating evacuation inherently increases the risk to occupants as the fire develops over time. The rate of fire growth is not easily predicted, however, it may be limited by reducing the amounts of combustible

furnishings located in common areas and corridors used for evacuation. Frantzich (1998) concludes that to improve the safety of occupants during evacuation it is important to maintain the fire separating ability of the door to the room or area of fire origin. This may include the use of automatic door closing devices to limit untenable conditions from extending into corridors.

Project People (1977) found that while a significant number of occupancies are provided with standard fire protection equipment such as fire extinguishers and

standpipes, “the fire fighting behavior of these buildings involves variables beyond the provision of the fire fighting equipment” (Bryan, 1977, p. 49). Ramachandran (1990) agrees “Fire extinguishers are rarely used and are not very effective. Without training, many have difficulty in using extinguishers” (Ramachandran, 1990, p. 154).

Consequently, the NFA (1999) has recommended that existing structures be provided with complete automatic sprinkler systems.

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Lathrop (2003) states “sprinklers are particularly valuable in dealing with

problems in existing buildings” (Lathrop, 2003, p. 4-65). In buildings constructed to older standards, means of egress may be inadequate. Automatic sprinklers “quickly discharge water on the fire before smoke has spread dangerously” (Lathrop, 2003, p. 4-65)

increasing egress time before conditions become untenable.

The findings of Lathrop were consistent with an earlier study (Klevan, 1982) that found sprinklers to be effective in slowing the descent of the smoke layer thus allowing occupants greater time for egress.

In summary, the above information indicates that there are several methods of improving the safety of occupants during evacuation of buildings. These methods range from modification of occupant behavior to installation of automatic fire suppression systems.

Procedures Definition of Terms

Insurance Services Office, Inc. (ISO) - “a nationwide for-profit service organization that provides services to the property and casualty insurance industries” (Freeman, 2003, p. 180).

National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) - “a non-profit membership

organization with a mission similar to the fire service that is to reduce the burden of fire and other hazards on the quality of life through the development of codes and standards, research, and education” (Sturtevant, 2003, p. 257).

Precinct - “subdivision of a county, town, city, or ward for election purposes” (Merriam-Webster, 2003).

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Temporal Three Pattern (T-3) - an international recognized audible emergency evacuation signal. The signal pattern consists of a 0.5 second “on” tone, followed by 0.5 second “off” phase. The tone sounds three times then is followed by a 1.5 second “off” phase before the signal repeats.

Underwriters Laboratories, Inc. (UL) - “an independent, not-for-profit product safety testing and certification organization” (Underwriters Laboratories, 2003). Research Methodology

The method used was descriptive research. The methodology included extensive review of books, reports, journals, articles, and electronic sources to determine what had been previously written about occupant response to fire alarm signals and how the safety of building occupants could be improved during evacuation. The Lane Memorial Library in Hampton, New Hampshire provided assistance through interlibrary loan from the Learning Resource Center at the National Fire Academy.

William Sullivan, retired Fire Chief, Hampton Fire Rescue, was consulted in July 2003 for information regarding the history of the fire department.

Richard Ballou, retired Fire Prevention Officer, Hampton Fire Rescue, was interviewed in July 2003 for information regarding the development of the Hampton Fire Rescue Fire Prevention Bureau. Ballou was the Fire Prevention Officer at the time Hampton Fire Rescue began to actively adopt and enforce fire prevention codes.

A questionnaire was developed based on a design used by Bryan (1977) in a study of human behavior in fire situations. The questionnaire titled “Fire Alarm Experience Survey” (Appendix A) was used to gather information from occupants of alarmed properties about hearing and recognizing fire alarm signals; how they reacted and what

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prompted evacuation for those who did so; what may have caused a delay in evacuation and how long, why occupants did not evacuate, and how serious occupants believed the incident to be. Additionally, the questionnaire was used to obtain information about routes used for egress and identification of exit signs.

Charles Roffo, Fire Prevention Officer, Laconia, New Hampshire Fire

Department was contacted in July 2003 to provide a review of the questionnaire content. Scott McDonald, Fire Prevention Officer and Jonathan True, Fire Inspector, both of Hampton Fire Rescue were consulted in July 2003 and requested to validate the appropriateness and flow of the questionnaire.

The questionnaire was distributed to occupants of seven alarmed properties (Appendix B) that experienced a fire alarm activation during the period from August 15 through August 29, 2003. Included were a ten unit hotel, a municipal office building, a seven unit private office condominium, a six unit apartment building, two residential condominium buildings totaling 36 units, and one single family residence. A total of 80 questionnaires were distributed. A total of 70 (87.5 percent) were returned. Four questionnaires (5.7 percent of those returned) were excluded because the occupants reported conflicting information. A total of 66 questionnaires (82.5 percent of those distributed and 94.3 percent of those returned) were used in this research project. According to the NFA (1998, p. SM 3-40) this sample was adequate to assure a 95 percent confidence level.

Statistical Analysis

Descriptive statistics were used to calculate and interpret the data generated from the questionnaire. With the assistance of Jane Cypher, Department Secretary for

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Hampton Fire Rescue, information obtained from each questionnaire was entered into a Microsoft Access database. An arithmetic tabulation and the percentages for all responses are reported.

Limitations and Assumptions

First, it is assumed that the respondents answered honestly and were capable of providing accurate information regarding their behavior in response to the fire alarm activation they experienced. It is unclear if the respondents’ answers to questions 11, 13, 15, and 18 were limited to a single choice. In retrospect, a note directing the respondent to “check all that apply” should have been added to these questions. Additionally, it was not determined when the last fire alarm activation had occurred for each of the sample occupancies. It is uncertain if a recent alarm activation affected the respondents’ answers.

The selection of sample occupancies was limited by the available alarm activations that had occurred during the specified time period. While the number of questionnaires distributed and returned were adequate to assure 95 percent accuracy, a larger population in different types of occupancies may have provided different results. Also, nearly all the respondents were familiar with the properties they occupied. It is unclear if the respondents’ answers would have been different if the occupants were not familiar with the sample occupancies.

Finally, the literature review was limited to identifying why some occupants do not react appropriately and how to improve safety for them. It was not the intent of this research to suggest that fire alarm systems are totally ineffective.

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Results

Use of a questionnaire and extensive literature review provided answers to the questions identified in this research paper. The results of the questionnaire are presented first.

Respondents were first asked to identify the reason for being at the sample property. There were 31 (46.9 percent) who indicated they worked at the sample property, followed by 28 (42.4 percent) who indicated they lived at the property, and finally the remaining seven (10.6 percent) were visiting. This question provided

information about how familiar the respondent was likely to be with the sample property. It is less likely that someone visiting would be as familiar with the property.

The respondents were then asked if they were present at the time of the alarm activation. Sixty-two (62) indicated they were in the building at the time of the alarm activation. This represented 93.9 percent of the total respondents used for the study. The remaining four indicated they were not in the property at the time of the alarm.

Of those present at the time of the alarm, 61 (99.4 percent) reported hearing an alarm sounding in the building. One respondent indicated they did not hear the alarm. Additionally, 44 (72.1 percent of those hearing an alarm) indicated the alarm in their room had sounded. Ten (10) respondents indicated that no alarm had sounded in their room and the remaining respondents did not answer. Of the 61 respondents that reported hearing an alarm, 55 (90.1 percent) were aware that the fire alarm had activated. Five (5) respondents did not recognize the sound as a fire alarm and one did not answer.

The respondents were then asked if they were alone when they heard the fire alarm. Of the 58 who answered this question, 38 (65.5 percent) indicated they were not

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alone when they heard the alarm. The average number of other people the respondent was with at the time of the alarm was two. Twelve (12) respondents indicated they were with relatives and the remaining respondents indicated they were with someone who was not a relative.

The 55 respondents that recognized the sound of the fire alarm were then asked if they left voluntarily (without being requested to leave by a building representative or the fire department). Forty-three (43) of the respondents (78.2 percent) indicated they left voluntarily, the remaining 12 respondents did not. All 62 respondents were then asked if they received any instructions from someone to leave the building. Forty-seven (47) respondents (75.8 percent) received no instructions to leave, 13 (20.9 percent) indicated they did receive instructions from someone to leave, and two (2) did not answer. The 13 respondents that received instructions to leave were asked if they then left immediately. Ten (10) respondents indicated they did leave immediately, two (2) respondents did not, and one did not answer.

The remaining 52 respondents that indicated they were present in the building at the time of the alarm were then asked if they did not leave immediately, why not? Twenty-six respondents (50 percent of those asked and 41.9 percent of all respondents) indicated they did not leave immediately. Nine (9) indicated they were seeking further information, one was controlling fire and smoke spread, two (2) warned or helped other occupants, one collected personal property, and 13 believed the alarm to be false.

Twenty-eight respondents reported waiting 2 minutes or longer before evacuating. Those respondents that indicated waiting 1 minute or less were considered to have left

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immediately. The average delay evacuating by those who reported how long they waited before leaving the building was 3.71 minutes.

All 62 respondents that were present at the time of the alarm were then asked what prompted their evacuation. Twenty-nine (29) respondents (46.8 percent) indicated they evacuated because of a formal warning system. Thirteen (13) respondents (20.9 percent) evacuated after receiving verbal communication from other people. Eight (8) respondents (12.9 percent) evacuated after observing physical cues in the environment such as smoke or noise. Ten (10) respondents (16.1 percent) did not evacuate and two did not answer the question. In total, 50 percent of the respondents did not evacuate after hearing the fire alarm alone. Of the ten (10) respondents that did not evacuate, eight (8) believed the alarm to be false, one was unaware there was a problem, and one was physically unable to evacuate.

The next four (4) questions were asked of all 62 respondents present at the time of the alarm to obtain information about how occupants evacuated the building. When asked if they required assistance leaving the building none answered that they did, 50 (80.6 percent) answered they did not, and the remainder either did not evacuate or did not answer. Thirty-eight (38) reported leaving from an upper or lower floor by using the stairs, none used an elevator, and 13 respondents indicated leaving through an exterior door. Twenty-two (22) respondents observed the presence of lighted exit signs, 26 did not notice any lighted exit signs, and the remainder did not answer. No one indicated

difficulty following any exit signs.

Finally, the respondents were asked how serious they believed the incident to be. Thirty-one (31) respondents (50 percent) indicated they did not feel the incident was

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serious at all, 16 (25.8 percent) indicated they felt the incident was only slightly serious, 12 (19.3 percent) reported they thought the incident was moderately serious, one felt the incident was extremely serious, and two did not answer.

Literature review also provided answers to each of the research questions. In response to question one, why do building occupants fail to react appropriately to fire alarm signals, the researcher found that occupants could not respond to a signal they could not hear. Additionally, occupants often have mistaken the sound of a fire alarm for some other non-emergency signal. Occupants that did not interpret the signal to indicate an actual emergency would not evacuate.

It was also found that alarm signals alone did not provide adequate information for an occupant to make appropriate decisions about whether to evacuate or not. This ambiguity resulted in further investigation rather than evacuation. As occupants

investigated for additional information their response was often affected by the reaction of others present. Occupants that were alone were more likely to evacuate than those that were with other people.

The frequency of false alarms was found to be a determining factor in how occupants responded to fire alarms. Those who had experienced previous false alarms were less likely to evacuate.

The literature also indicated that some occupants were unable to evacuate due to unfamiliarity with the layout of the building or were physically unable.

Next, how can occupant response to fire alarm signals be improved?

Research indicated a decrease in alarm ambiguity would improve evacuation compliance by occupants. A standardized alarm signal, such as the Temporal-Three

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alarm signal, would reduce the uncertainty occupants have in identifying an alarm as an indication of an emergency (NFA, 1999). Additionally, any change in signal must include appropriate training if occupants are to recognize the signal.

The provision of accurate information can also reduce the ambiguity of an alarm. Voice communications can provide specific instructions to occupants about the cause of an alarm and the appropriate action that should be taken.

It was also noted that improving the occupant’s confidence in the ability of an alarm to indicate a real emergency would increase evacuation compliance. Occupants who were provided with information regarding the causes of an alarm and what measures were being taken to prevent false alarms were more likely to respond appropriately.

Finally, what additional fire protection measures can improve the safety of building occupants during evacuation?

The installation of modern, more sophisticated alarm systems can improve the safety of occupants by reducing the occurrence of false alarms and providing more discriminate signals. Additional building design features which contain smoke and fire, provide safe areas of refuge or egress, and provide easy to follow, more direct routes to paths of egress were also identified as important elements of safe building design. Many of these features such as fire rated doors with self closing devices, limiting the presence of combustible materials in common areas and paths of egress, and well lit easy to follow exit signs were identified as elements providing improved safety for building occupants.

Lastly, it was found that the installation of automatic sprinkler systems improved the safety of occupants during evacuation of buildings during fire emergencies by quickly discharging water on the fire. This rapid control of the fire limited the production of

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dangerous smoke and toxic gases increasing the time available to occupants for safe egress.

Discussion

The results of the questionnaire used in this research project reinforced the

information found in the literature review and supported the initial observations Hampton Fire Rescue made regarding poor evacuation compliance of occupants in response to fire alarm signals.

The first research question, why do building occupants fail to react appropriately to fire alarm signals, provided critical information for this research paper. To provide suggestions and recommendations on improving occupant response to fire alarms a firm understanding of occupant behavior was necessary. While the research explored a variety of reasons for improper response by occupants, the simplest causes had to be examined first. Chubb (2000), Kahn (1984), and Proulx (2000) indicated that occupants could not respond to a signal they could not hear. One respondent indicated they did not hear an alarm sounding in the building. While this represents a small percentage (1.6 percent) of the respondents present at the sample properties during the alarm activation, it clearly indicated that the fire alarm system did not fulfill its intended purpose of warning occupants. Additionally, occupants often have mistaken the sound of a fire alarm for some other non-emergency signal. Five respondents indicated they did not recognize the sound as a fire alarm.Proulx (2000) and Ramachandran (1991) found that occupants would not evacuate if they did not interpret the signal to indicate an actual emergency.

A comparison of evacuation response for those who indicated they were alone with those who indicated they were with other people supported Tong and Canter’s

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(1985) finding that individuals responded more quickly than a group of occupants when presented with vague or unclear cues. Only 76.3 percent of those occupants with others reported evacuating immediately compared with 82.3 percent of those who were alone.

Groner (1998) noted that alarm signals alone did not provide adequate

information for an occupant to make appropriate decisions about whether to evacuate or not. Fewer than half of all respondents (46.8 percent) indicated that they evacuated after hearing the fire alarm alone. These results were consistent with the findings of Proulx (1998) that only a small percentage of occupants began evacuation after hearing the fire alarm signal. Ten (10) did not evacuate, 13 evacuated after being prompted by verbal communication from other people, and 8 evacuated because of physical cues in the environment. Most of the occupants treated the alarm as a warning then waited for additional information before deciding to evacuate. This supports Canter and Matthews (1976) earlier finding that people will not evacuated based upon hearing the fire alarm alone. This ambiguity resulted in further investigation rather than evacuation (Sime, Breaux, and Canter, 1979).

Those who did not evacuate immediately most often indicated they believed the alarm to be false. Bryan (1977), Groner (1998), and Proulx (2000) reported that frequent false alarms reduced the occupant’s confidence in fire alarm signals to indicate a real emergency. In these situations many occupants are less likely to evacuate the building without some clear evidence that a true emergency exists. Of the 60 respondents that answered how serious they believed the incident to be, 78.3 percent indicated “not at all serious” or “only slightly serious”. Bryan (1977) found that those who had no positively threatening indication of a serious fire would not evacuate immediately. Others

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investigated to seek further information about the cause of the alarm, attempted to warn others, or collected personal property. One respondent indicated they attempted to control the smoke or fire. This behavior is likely to occur more frequently in a single-family residence than in larger residential, business, or assembly type occupancies. The occupant of a single-family residence has a vested interest in the property, therefore it is likely the occupant will delay evacuation and in some cases notification of the fire department while attempting to verify the cause of the alarm or attempt to control the fire or other hazard.

In some cases, the occupant may hear a fire alarm and recognize the need for immediate evacuation, but may be physically unable to do so. One occupant reported being physically unable to evacuate without assistance. Canter and Matthews (1976) and the NFA (1999) reported that occupants might be unable to evacuate due to similar physiological circumstances such as fatigue or drug and alcohol impairment.

Next, how can occupant response to fire alarm signals be improved? The research examined two important issues regarding improving occupant response to fire alarms, modifying human behavior and improved use of existing as well as future technology. To improve occupant response and evacuation compliance the NFA (1999) suggests providing unequivocal information and reducing the indistinctness of the alarm signal.

One way of providing clear information and instruction to occupants is through use of a voice communication system. A voice communication clearly identifies the nature and urgency of the fire alarm activation. Additionally, it can provide accurate instructions for evacuation procedures. Research conducted by Proulx (1998) and Sime

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(2001) confirmed that instructions given over voice communication systems were more effective than fire alarm signals alone. The results of the questionnaire support this finding. Of the 31 occupants that did not evacuate after hearing the fire alarm alone, 41.9 percent indicated they evacuated after being prompted by verbal communication from other people.

The NFA (1999) suggested that standardizing the alarm signal would improve occupant’s ability to recognize the sound to indicate an emergency. Proulx (2000) agreed that a single sound such as the Temporal-Three (T-3) could reduce the possibility of confusing the sound with other non-emergent alarms. While a standard signal can improve occupant response to fire alarms, any sound used cannot prompt appropriate response if the occupant does not recognize it. A later study by Proulx (2003) found that many people could recall the T-3 signal, but could not identify it as a fire alarm. For the T-3 to become effective as an evacuation signal adequate public information must be provided. This raises a new issue of how this can be accomplished and perhaps will require further research at a later time. Proulx (2003) suggests a starting point for

educating the public should begin with elementary schools. “Children would rapidly learn the sound pattern of the T-3 and they would be taught the associated meaning and

behavior, which they should be able to transfer to other buildings that they would visit in the future” (Proulx, 2003, p. 80). This researcher would agree that this approach is appropriate. Similar observations of increased seatbelt and helmet use would support this method of behavior modification.

Improving occupant’s confidence in the ability of a fire alarm to indicate an actual emergency can also improve their response and evacuation compliance. Groner (1998)

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found that by providing accurate information to occupants regarding cause and what action was being taken to prevent false alarms, the ability of the signal to indicate a real emergency was not diminished. In five of the seven sample properties used for this research project an actual hazardous condition existed and caused the alarm activation. The NFA (1999) states “good training and accurate information early in the fire incident would alleviate much of the problem” (NFA, 1999, p. CG 8-19). Had the occupants been informed of the circumstances concerning the alarm activation it is possible many would have responded differently when asked, how serious did you believe the incident to be? Additionally, many occupants that did not evacuate indicated they believed the alarm to be false. These occupants may have behaved differently had accurate information regarding their experience with previous alarms been provided.

Finally, what additional fire protection measures can improve the safety of building occupants during evacuation?

Since much of what has been discussed relates to occupant response to fire alarm signals, modern alarm system technology will first be addressed. Prowse (1999) describes new technology that could be effective in reducing occupant’s belief that alarms are usually false. This new alarm technology has the ability to reject erroneous signals

thereby making the alarm significantly more discriminate. Previous causes of false alarms such as cigarette smoke or dust would be reduced. Additionally, this new technology can provide a differential warning signal. An initial alarm would place occupants on alert followed by evacuation instructions if necessary. This could prove beneficial in place of assembly occupancies such as restaurants. While delaying evacuation to verify an alarm is not ideal, it prevents building owners from silencing alarms without providing some

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verification of the cause. The NFA (1999) indicates that many fire officials agree preventing building personnel from verifying alarms has resulted in actions with very disastrous results.

During this period of verification it is important for building representatives or employees to remain alert and provide accurate information to the occupants. This preplanning and escape planning can provide orderly evacuation through the closest, most appropriate exit. Timoney (1984) supports this finding in a report following a fire in the Howard Johnson’s Hotel in Orlando, Florida. Timoney found that a comprehensive fire prevention and education program resulted in prompt and appropriate action of hotel employees.

The questionnaire used to obtain information for this research project began by asking respondents their reason for being at the property. The intent of this question was to determine if the respondent was in some way familiar with the property. It is less likely that someone that indicated they were visiting was as familiar with the arrangement and layout of the building as an occupant who was residing or working in the building. Because occupants will often attempt to exit through the same route they entered, other more appropriate or safer exits may be overlooked. Groner (1998) indicated this could be overcome by making “exits more noticeable and to make them appear as safer ways to evacuate a building” (Groner, 1998, Safest Way Out, ¶ 3). Of the respondents that

answered the question, did you notice any lighted exit signs, 22 indicated they did and 26 indicated they did not. No respondents indicated they had trouble following the direction of the exit signs, and no occupants that evacuated required assistance doing so.

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While it was not the intent of this research to identify how occupants chose the route of evacuation from a building, it remains that providing a safe recognizable route of egress improves the safety of building occupants during evacuation in response to fire alarm activations. The location and size of exits has long been a requirement of fire codes. Although most codes have been prescriptive, that is, they describe only one way of satisfying the code requirement; Corbett and Farr (2003) have indicated a change toward performance-based design. Sime (2001) concluded that a performance-based design that considers the behavior of people in addition to the physical environment would be most effective. This would appear to be the most appropriate approach to means of egress requirements. The actions and behavior of occupants is not mechanical or easily predicted.

The results of the questionnaire indicated that the average delay evacuating by those who reported how long they waited before leaving the building was 3.71 minutes. Frantzich (1998) writes that a delay initiating evacuation inherently increases the risk to occupants as the fire develops over time. As the fire increases the conditions become less tenable for occupants reducing the time available for safe evacuation. To limit the spread of smoke and fire into or through hallways and corridors, Frantzich (1998) suggests the use of fire rated doors with automatic closing devices. Considering the length of time respondents delayed before evacuating, it is likely that fire conditions would have become untenable before they could safely exit from the building. Lathrop (2003) and Klevan (1982) found that an effective method of slowing the production and descent of the smoke layer was the installation of automatic sprinkler systems. In the model examined by Klevan (1982) it was found that without sprinklers the smoke conditions

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had become untenable within 4.5 minutes. By quickly discharging water and controlling or extinguishing the fire, the addition of an automatic sprinkler system increased the time to 12 minutes. In occupancies with installed automatic sprinkler systems, occupants clearly have greater time to exit safely.

Recommendations

The results of this research project indicate that appropriate occupant response to fire alarm signals is a problem. Several recommendations are described that will improve occupant response to fire alarm signals and better protect occupants during evacuation of buildings in response to fire alarm activations.

The adoption of performance-based codes should be considered. This approach offers an improved view of how building design can consider the behavior of the occupants.

Five changes to the requirements for fire alarm systems are recommended: 1. Require annual testing of all fire alarm systems to reduce the occurrence of

false alarms.

2. Fire alarm systems should make greater use of discriminate detector technology to reduce the occurrence of false alarms.

3. When an alarm activation occurs, appropriate feedback should be provided to the occupants regarding the cause and what measures are being taken to prevent future false alarms.

4. Require that fire alarm systems sound the Temporal-Three signal in all new buildings and require a plan for compliance in all existing buildings. This requirement should be immediately implemented in all schools along with an

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increase in public education regarding the meaning of the T-3 signal and what appropriate action should be taken.

5. Begin immediate inspection to ensure fire alarm signals are adequate to alert occupants from any location within a building.

Five additional recommendations are:

1. Require immediate inspection to note the presence of and limit the amount of combustible materials and furnishings located in egress pathways.

2. Require fire rated doors and automatic closing devices to limit extension of fire and smoke into egress pathways.

3. Require business and building owners to develop emergency evacuation plans and train employees in its implementation.

4. Require the installation of voice communication systems in occupancies that present difficulty in quickly providing evacuation instructions to building occupants.

5. Require automatic sprinklers in all new buildings and develop a plan for requiring installation in existing buildings.

In conclusion, the implementation of these recommendations will require further review of the current code requirements presently in existence within the Town of Hampton. Additional research may be necessary to develop plans for the inclusion, implementation, and enforcement of these recommendations.

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References

Bickman, L., Edelman, P., & McDaniel, M. (1977). A model of human behavior in a fire emergency. Chicago, IL: Loyola University of Chicago, Fire and Human

Behavior Research Center.

Bryan, J. L. (1977). Smoke as a determinant of human behavior in fire situations (Project People). College Park, MD: University of Maryland, Department of Fire

Protection Engineering.

Bryan, J.L. (1983). An examination and analysis of the dynamics of the human behavior in the Westchase Hilton Hotel fire, Houston, Texas on March 6, 1982. Quincy, MA: National Fire Protection Association.

Canter, D. & Matthews, R. (1976). The behaviour of people in fire situations:

possibilities for research. Garston, England: Great Britain. Building Research Establishment.

Chubb, M. (2000, October). Public confidence in smoke alarms: Shaken, not stirred. Fire Engineering. 167-168.

Cooper, L. Y. (1980). Calculating escape times from fires. In H. E. Nelson (Ed.), Engineering applications of fire technology workshop proceedings (195-213). Washington, DC: Center for Fire Research.

Corbett, G. P. & Farr, R. R. (2003). Fire prevention and code enforcement organization. In R. C. Barr & J. M. Eversole (Eds.), The fire chief’s handbook (pp. 1037-1061). Tulsa, OK: PennWell Corporation.

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Frantzich, H. (1998). Fire safety risk analysis of a hotel; How to consider parameter uncertainty. Retrieved July 27, 2003, from Lund University, Department of Fire Safety Engineering Web site: http://www.brand.lth.se/bibl/case2ho.pdf.

Freeman, T. K. (2003). Insurance grading of fire departments. In R. C. Barr & J. M. Eversole (Eds.), The fire chief’s handbook (pp. 179-203). Tulsa, OK: PennWell Corporation.

Groner, N. E. (1998). People Power. In Fire-related human behavior (pp. CG 41-CG 8-43). Emmitsburg, MD: National Fire Academy.

Insurance Services Office (1972). [General survey of Hampton, New Hampshire]. Concord, NH: Author.

Johnson, M. W. (2003). Fundamentals of safe building design. In A. E. Cote et al. (Eds.), Fire protection handbook (19th ed., section 1, pp. 33-50). Quincy, MA: National Fire Protection Association.

Kahn, M. J. (1984). Human awakening and subsequent identification of fire-related cues. Fire Technology, 20, 20-26.

Klevan, J. B. (1982). Modeling of available egress time from assembly spaces or

estimating the advance of the fire threat. Boston, MA: Society of Fire Protection Engineers.

Lathrop, J. K. (2003). Concepts of egress design. In A. E. Cote et al. (Eds.), Fire

protection handbook (19th ed., section 4, pp. 57-82). Quincy, MA: National Fire Protection Association.

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Melinek, S. J. & Booth, S. (1975). An analysis of evacuation times and the movement of crowds in buildings. Borehamwood, Hertforshire, UK: Great Britain. Building Research Establishment.

Merriam-Webster (2003). Merriam-Webster online dictionary. Retrieved July 27, 2003, from http://www.m-w.com/cgi-bin/dictionary.

National Fire Academy (1998). Executive development. Emmitsburg, MD: Author. National Fire Academy (1999). Fire-related human behavior. Emmitsburg, MD: Author. National Fire Academy (2002). Executive fire officer program operational policies and

procedures applied research guidelines. Emmitsburg, MD: Author.

National Fire Protection Association (2000). NFPA 101, Life safety code. Quincy, MA: Author.

Pauls, J. L. & Jones, B. K. (1980). Research in human behavior. Fire Journal, 74, 35-41. Proulx, G. (1998). The impact of voice communication messages during a residential

highrise fire. In Fire-related human behavior (pp. CG 8-31-CG 8-40). Emmitsburg, MD: National Fire Academy.

Proulx, G. (2000). Why building occupants ignore fire alarms. (Construction Technology Updates No. 42). Ottowa: Institute for Research in Construction, National

Research Council of Canada.

Proulx, G. & Laroche, C. (2003). Recollection, identification, and perceived urgency of the Temporal-Three evacuation signal. Fire Protection Engineering, 13, 67-82. Prowse, M. (1999). Building management issues: detecting fire; resisting false alarms.

Retrieved July 23, 2003, from

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Ramachandran, G. (1990). Human behavior in fires-A review of research in the United Kingdom. Fire Technology, 26, 149-155.

Ramachandran, G. (1991). Informative fire warning systems. Fire Technology, 27, 66-81. Sime, J. (2001). Occupant response: Inputs to design, fire safety engineering and facilities

management. Fire Safety Engineering, 38, 14-18.

Sime, J., Breaux, J., & Canter, D. V. (1979). Behaviour patterns in domestic fires. Garston, England: Great Britain. Building Research Establishment.

Sturtevant, T. B. (2003). Safety and occupational health. In R. C. Barr & J. M. Eversole (Eds.), The fire chief’s handbook (pp. 257-275). Tulsa, OK: PennWell

Corporation.

Timoney, T. (1984). Howard Johnson’s hotel fire, Orlando, Florida. Fire Journal, 78, 37-45, 88.

Tong, D. & Canter, D. (1985). The decision to evacuate: a study of the motivations which contribute to evacuation in the event of fire. Fire Safety Journal, 9, 257-265. Underwriters Laboratories, Inc. (2003). Underwriters Laboratories, Inc. Web site.

Retrieved August 20, 2003, from http://www.ul.com.

Vogt, M. (2002). Dorm fire alarms disrupt students’ lives. Retrieved July 27, 2003, from http://www-tech.mit.edu/V122/N58/58bc.58n.html.

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Appendix A

Fire Alarm Experience Survey 1. Please describe your reason for being at this property.

□ Living/residing

Visiting

Working

2. Were you in the building on at AM PM.

Yes

No

If NO, do not continue. You have completed this survey. 3. Did you hear an alarm sounding in the building?

Yes

No

4. Did the smoke detector or alarm in your room sound?

Yes □ No

5. Were you aware that the fire alarm system had activated?

Yes □ No - Go to question 9

6. Were you alone when you heard the fire alarm?

Yes □ No

7. If no, how many persons were with you? Were they:

Relatives

others

8. Upon hearing the alarm did you leave voluntarily (without being requested to leave by a building representative or the fire department)?

Yes □ No

9. Did you receive any instructions from someone to leave the building?

Yes □ No – Go to question 11

10. After receiving instructions to leave the building, did you then leave immediately?

Yes - Go to question 13

No

11. If you did not leave immediately, why not?

Seeking further information

□ Seeking

help

Controlling fire and smoke spread

Searching for other occupants or pets

□ Warning/helping

other occupants

□ Collecting

personal property

Believed alarm to be false

Observation of others not leaving

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12. How long did you wait before leaving the building? Minutes. 13. Did you evacuate because of:

Formal warning system

Verbal communication from other people

Physical cues in the environment (smoke, noise, etc…)

Did not evacuate. - Go to question 18

14. Did you require assistance leaving the building?

Yes □ No

15. How did you leave the building?

□ Stairway

to ground

□ Elevator

Window

□ Exterior

door

□ Other

16. Did you notice any lighted exit signs?

Yes □ No

17. Did you encounter any difficulty following the direction of the exit signs?

Yes □ No

18. If you did not evacuate, was it because:

Believed the alarm to be false

Felt safer in your room

Unaware that there was a problem

Unable to leave (physically unable or exit blocked) 19. How serious did you believe the incident to be?

Not at all serious

Only slightly serious

□ Moderately

serious

□ Extremely

serious

20. Please add anything you feel is important.

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Appendix B

Questionnaire Sample Properties

Coastview Condos (4 story, 12 unit residential condominium) 425 Ocean Boulevard

Hampton, New Hampshire

Hampton Town Offices (2 story, municipal office building) 100 Winnacunnet Road

Hampton, New Hampshire

Moulton Hotel (3 story, 10 unit hotel) 245 Ocean Boulevard

Hampton, New Hampshire

Park Place Condos (3 story, 7 unit private office building) 1 Park Ave

Hampton, New Hampshire

Shoreview Apartments (3 story, 6 unit apartment building) 55 Ocean Boulevard

Hampton, New Hampshire

Sun Point Condos (3 story, 24 unit residential condominium) 567 Ocean Boulevard

Hampton, New Hampshire

Single Family Private Residence 210 Mill Road

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Appendix C

Questionnaire Instruction Letter

Dear Mr., Mrs., or Ms.:

Hampton Fire Rescue is collecting information about the actions and observations of occupants of buildings during a fire alarm activation. This information is being use to complete a research project for the National Fire Academy Executive Fire Officer Program to determine how Hampton Fire Rescue can better protect the citizens and visitors in the Town of Hampton.

Please take a few moments to answer the questions on the attached questionnaire about your experience during the recent fire alarm activation. The information provided will be used to increase the safety of building occupants during fire emergencies.

Once completed, please return the survey to the front desk, building manager, supervisor, or feel free to return it to Hampton Fire Rescue Station 1 located at 64 Ashworth Avenue Hampton, New Hampshire 03842.

If you have any questions regarding this survey or would like to offer additional information, please feel free to contact Deputy Chief Chris Silver at 603-926-3316. Thank you for assisting us with this project!

Sincerely,

Christopher Silver Deputy Chief

Figure

Updating...

References