Critical Review on Researches of Human Behaviour

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This piece of coursework contains a critical review of M. Gerges, M. Mayouf, P. Rumley and D. Moore research paper entitled, “Human behaviour under fire situations in high-rise residential building”. The paper was published in 2017 in the International Journal of Building Pathology and Adaptation. The paper follows earlier research by Breaux and Wood, (1980), on “Fire and human behaviour” and more recently by Kobes, (2010), on “Building safety and human behaviour in fire”. The researchers aimed to gain an understanding of human behavioural decisions whist experiencing a fire situation and what challenges occupants face when evacuating a high-rise building.

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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.

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