Fire risk analysis (quantification of the impact)

Following the new PBFPD process step dedicated to the assessment of the likelihood of fire events susceptible to occur in defined "building-occupant" systems, the fire protection engineers (FPEs) have to assess the consequences of these fire events, and more precisely the impact these events would have on the system targets which define its performance.

While assessing the consequences of fire events susceptible to occur in the built environment (including buildings, structures such as airport terminal or underground subway station or tunnels), the fire protection engineers (FPEs) use different types of tools. These tools can be characterized by the phenomena they model (fire effects including temperature profiles, smoke movement, evacuation of occupants and structure response to a fire) and by their level of complexity (e.g. for fire effects calculations: algebraic equation gathered in a procedural set, zone models, and computational fluid dynamics).

In order to help the FPEs "substantiate a fire model for a given application", the Society of Fire Protection Engineers (SFPE) published a guide [1] in 2011, in complement of the SFPE guidelines that help the engineer understand the performance-based design process [2] and the SFPE guidelines which assist code officials in the review of performance-based designs [3].

Solving a fire related problem within the engineering context of performance-based fire protection design requires most of the time using tools characterizing the fire effects on one hand and the occupant evacuation process on the other hand. Due to the complexity of these phenomena, the past decades of research have been dedicated by scientists to model 3-D effects of fires while other scientists concentrated their efforts on building occupant evacuation tools. In consequence, no major effort was made by the community to provide guidance for FPEs to use these tools in conjunction.

Thus, the 'test bed' environment studies seem the best opportunity for the FPE community to share their savoir-faire in terms of how the simultaneous processes of fire spreading and occupant evacuation are dealt for specific systems formed by building configurations and their occupants.

Databases for all these types of tools dedicated to the quantification of the impact of fire events are also required in order to provide data applicable to specific "building-occupant" systems, in order to reduce the uncertainities related to the input data on the tool results.

[1] SFPE, Guidelines for Substantiating a Fire Model for a Given Application, 2011

[2] SFPE, SFPE Engineering Guide to Performance-Based Fire Protection, 2007

[3] SFPE/ICC, Code Official's Guide to Performance-Based Design Review (chapter 11), Society of Fire Protection Engineers and International Code Council, 2004

Alberto Alvarez - WPI (2012-10-03)