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Fire Safety and Human Nature
April 28, 2010 - Contact FacilitiesNet Editorial Staff »
No matter what facility mangers do to prepare an emergency response plan, provide proper notification and fire safety systems, and maintain a top-notch code-compliant facility, they can't escape the fact that in an emergency, they still have to contend with human nature.
You might think that in case of fire, it's human nature to panic. Turns out the typical response in a building, in the absence of visible fire, is to do nothing. There are several reasons for this. First, people may not realize what they're hearing is a fire alarm, either due to lack of education or because they're unfamiliar with the facility, as in the case of visitors. They might also not be able to hear the alarm. Or they may be jaded, and think it’s just another drill they can ignore or a system malfunction, it that is common at the facility. Lastly, when the smoke alarm goes off in their own home, people go into action. However, in a public facility, that's in effect somebody else's problem to deal with.
For all of these reasons, it is important that fire alarms provide as much information as possible in a clear and concise manner. If a facility has only horns and strobes, this should be clear on signage so visitors are not expecting voice commands. Voice communication is preferable to tell people what the problem is, what their response should be and how they should go about doing it.