A Dangerous Blind Spot
Survey reveals few worry about the dangers of fire
- By Megan Weadock
- Oct 05, 2009
As they say, out of sight out
of mind—even when it comes
In fact, a new survey from the Society
for Fire Protection Engineers found
that although the majority of Americans
believe fire is a prominent threat
to their home and family, very few actually
worry about the dangers of fire.
The Great Disconnect
The survey, conducted in February with
more than 1,000 participants, revealed
that 45 percent of people believe fire is
more of a threat than lightning strikes,
hurricanes, earthquakes and floods. At
the same time, only 18 percent of the
respondents said they worry about the
dangers of fire more than once a year.
According to the SFPE, Americans are
more likely to be harmed by fire when
compared to other disasters. And although
natural disasters such as hurricanes
and earthquakes are covered
widely in the national news media,
many more people die each year as a
result of fire.
Each year in the United States, there
are more than 1.5 million fires, many
of which could be prevented, the SFPE
reports. As a result, more than 3,000
people die and more than 17,000 are injured.
Direct property loss due to fires
is estimated to be more than $10 billion
a year, according to the report.
"We face widespread misconceptions
about fire safety, and that's worrisome,"
said Chris Jelenewicz, engineering
program manager at SFPE.
"Everyone should recognize that thousands
of people die each year in fires
and be aware that fire safety features in
a building play a critical in protecting
people, property and the environment
A Step Ahead
Luckily, people within the security industry
recognize the importance of fire
safety. Today, innovation continues to
push the limits of fire detection.
For example, officials at the Museum
of London are well acquainted
with the importance of protecting artifacts,
visitors and staff from the threat
of fire and damaging smoke. An icon
at the heart of the city, the Museum of
London aims to inspire a passion for all
things London. It is one of the world's
largest urban history museums, with
collections spanning prehistory to the
present day. The lower galleries are undergoing
major redevelopment work,
and new galleries will be opening in
2010, telling the story of modern London
from 1666 to the present day.
Steve Cox, head of facilities and security
at the museum, said after years
of using a closed-protocol fire alarm
system, it was time for a change.
"We wanted to update the system
and increase flexibility and control,"
Cox said. "Due to the nature of our
billing and the structural layout of the
museum, the aesthetics of the system in
some areas of the public galleries and
spaces was a key requirement."
Wessex Fire and Security, the museum's
installer, recommended the Xtralis
VESDA and ICAM aspirating smoke
detector systems, which took into account
the buildings' structural layout
and aesthetic considerations. VESDA
and ICAM are designed for use in environments
with zero tolerance for fire—
for example, the 2 million artifacts, and
the visitors and staff, at the Museum
Xtralis aspirating smoke detectors
constantly sample the air for even the
smallest of smoke particles, helping
to prevent a small fire from becoming
a major incident. A network of pipes
can be placed where the smoke is most
likely to go, sensing smoke long before
Cox said the museum went with the
Xtralis VESDA solution for its superior
protection of large open spaces over
conventional point or beam detection
systems. Meanwhile, the Xtralis ICAM
technology is used in more confined,
difficult to access spaces. Another important
factor was the fact that the
company's ASD solutions can be unobtrusively
deployed, which allowed
the museum to preserve aesthetic features
and keep scaffolding, ladders and
workers to a minimum.
Cox said the biggest challenge during
the project was to fit the new system
installation around other renovations.
That's why the museum did the installation
in phases, the first of which was
completed in July. The second phase
Never Say Never
The Museum of London officials will
surely benefit from their decision to
take a proactive approach to fire detection.
Cox said it's already "reassuring
to have a modern, up-to-date and fully
flexible system" installed throughout
It's vital that security professionals—
as well as individual home and
business owners—begin to truly realize
the dangers of fire and smoke. An
attitude of "it won't happen to me" is
reckless and unrealistic.
Take a cue from the Museum of
London—as well as St. Paul's Cathedral
and the Houses of Parliament,
which also use an Xtralis solution for
fire detection—and face the fact that it
could happen to you, at any time.
Megan Weadock is a communications specialist at Monitronics.