Risks that affect the built environment and threaten human life are becoming major societal issues in the 21st century. Managing these risks and responding to emergencies such as fires, floods, and terrorist attacks is important and needs to be planned efficiently and effectively to ensure minimal impact on society. The government's White paper "Our Fire and Rescue Service" published in 2003 introduced reforms that refocused the role of the Fire and Rescue Service on the prevention of fires and broadened its role in dealing with other growing threats resulting from climate change and man-made disasters. As a result, a new statutory framework is now in existence that places a responsibility on the FRS to produce Integrated Risk Management Plans (IRMPs) to plan for, and respond to, a range of emergencies.
The aim of IRMPs is to improve community safety and make a more effective use of FRS resources by: "reducing the incidence of fires; reducing loss of life in fires and accidents; reducing the number and severity of injuries; safeguarding the environment and protecting the national heritage; and providing communities with value for money". The White paper also highlighted that new ideas for the fire and rescue service must be based on evidence from rigorous research based on the review of technologies and underpinning science on fire prevention, detection and suppression.
The work in this project is part of the joint national initiative between the EPSRC and the Communities and Local Government (CLG) to encourage and support research on "how to identify, measure and mitigate the social and economic impact that fire and other emergencies can be expected to have on individuals, communities, commerce, industry, the environment and heritage". This is in response to the government's drive to introduce changes for the Fire and Rescue Service making this proposed research timely as it contributes to the CLG's efforts to implement the FRS reforms.
There has been a great deal of research on risk assessment and risk management within the context of fire and other emergencies, most of this work focused on estimating the probability of risks and their impact quantified in terms of damage and loss by modelling fire growth and spread. However the integration of the performance and effectiveness of prevention and protection measures used in buildings while developing risk management plans to allocate fire and rescue resources has received little attention. Recent efforts within the CLG, the home Office, and the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister investigated risk assessment as part of the development of a process for planning Fire Service Emergency Cover (FSEC). Part of this work resulted in the development of a toolkit to assess risk, plan response, and model the consequences of resource deployment. However the new requirements of IRMPs that need a holistic and integrated approach and focus on prevention are introducing further research challenges, these can be summarised as follows:
- 1. lack of evidence based methods for the assessment of the effectiveness of prevention and protection measures used in buildings;
- 2. difficulties in assessing and predicting property, heritage, and human loss;
- 3. the need for decision making tools for the cost effective allocation of prevention and protection resources.
The main aim of the research in this project is to build on the work by the CLG and investigate the value and effectiveness of prevention and protection measures and activities used in commercial, public and heritage buildings with the view of improving decision making on the allocation of resources within the context of IRMP. The main outcome of he research will be the development of tools that will support the FRS in decision making regarding: the value of prevention and protection measures in the built environment; and the allocation of resources for fire safety interventions.