Our current understanding of how people act during an incident is still very limited, especially related to fire safety and evacuation. What we think people might do, the obvious, isn`t always the case. For example, a video experiment showing how participants reacted on seeing smoke creep out from under a doorway, resulted in individuals sitting up to 20 minutes before reacting, whereas when they were in a group situation, the “follower” rule kicked in and they left much sooner. The individuals in the video backs up a study conducted by Cordeiro, (2010) in which he investigated the behaviour of occupants in a Portuguese buildings. Results found that 43% of the occupants were unsure as to what action they should take during a situation of fire. Proulx (2001) on the other, identified that the first reaction of people involved in a situation of fire is to panic. As stated previously, the aim of the study was to obtain behavioural data of occupants under fire situations in high-rise building(s). To achieve the aim the research had to satisfy three objectives:-
To investigate fire safety issues and challenges arising in high-rise buildings;
To identify human behavioural decisions whilst experiencing a fire situation, and;
To investigate the challenges that occupants face when evacuating a high-rise building.
The study was carried out in two parts:
The first part involved the formulation of a questionnaire, which in turn would be distributed to the residents/inhabitants of a high rise residential building in Egypt. A total of 107 questionnaires were distributed, with 62 being returned, (no detail provided about who completed these questionnaires). The questionnaire was divided into 3 sections. Part A was to identify the occupant`s gender, education and age whilst also identifying their knowledge of and experience with fire.
Part B explores what occupants would do in a situation of fire and ranks various factors depending upon priority.
Part C investigated whether occupants are aware of evacuation plans and emergency procedures for their building and whether they understand what action an occupant should take during a situation of fire.
A pilot study was conducted to improve and validate the questionnaire. Naoum (2007) stated that a pilot study provides a trial run for the questionnaire enabling many variables to be tested, namely:
The test wording of the questions;
Identification of ambiguous questions;
Test the technique of answering the questions;
Identify the timescale required for occupants to complete the questionnaire.
The findings revealed the majority of those who completed the questionnaire were female. 42% of respondents were between the ages 31-45. 42% were educated to degree level. 91% were permanent residents.73% of respondents were aware of emergency exits. 86% of respondents were aware of an evacuation plan. 84% of respondents had received some sort of fire training. 82% of respondents had never been involved in afire situation in a high-rise building.
The questionnaire then went on to explore what motivated people the most to evacuate a building in a situation of fire. Findings showed, 89% of respondents said on seeing smoke they would leave the building immediately. 84% of respondents on hearing the fire alarm they would investigate if there was in fact a fire. Surprisingly, witnessing a burning smell was ranked the least with 54%. This contrasted starkly to Cordeiro(2014) Portuguese study, where they found that witnessing the smell of smoke or a burning smell was ranked first with 36%. 34% of respondents thought the best method to escape was to use the escape stairs. The questionnaire findings were analysed using the Relative Importance Index formula. The data was collected over 4 days.