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The Mfb’S Human Behaviour Research Project

Hooper, Luke, Taylor, Rob and Pepperdine, Sharon, 2004. The Mfb’S Human Behaviour Research Project . AOFST 6


Over the period July 2001 to December 2002, the MFB conducted research into human behaviour in fires to assess whether community safety strategies help influence people to minimize the risk of fire and what actions individuals take in a residential fire. Throughout the research period data was collected from victims of residential house fires. The research found that the community’s perception of fire-risk differs to that of the MFB with much more emphasis placed on how to react to a fire, rather than how to prevent a fire. As a result, three recommendations have been tabled: 1. There is a need to highlight how and why fire is a danger to the community. 2. There is a need to emphasise preventative fire safety messages, without negating reactive messages. 3. There is a need to highlight to the community the roles of different fire suppression and warning systems in the home. The fire services need to highlight how fire can lead to immediate risks to the community as well as how seemingly inconsequential events have the potential to create deleterious consequences. The community often perceives fire risk as a consequential event, rather than as a potential event often due to a lack of fire experience. In order to improve the ability of fire-safety messages to be remembered and acted upon, the fire service needs to define the term ‘fire’ in a consistent manner so that the community can understand the consequences of fire better; whilst fire services view heat and smoke as dangerous, members of the community often only perceive flames as a threat. Changing the community’s understanding and risk perception will be the greatest challenge. There is need to place more emphasis on prevention in order to decrease the incidence of fire ignition in homes. However it is important to still emphasize reactive measures to help individuals cope with fire situations when they arise. There is the need to highlight to the community the roles of different fire suppression and warning systems in the home. Fire services need to address how to promote home fire-safety suppression systems (fire extinguishers and fire blankets) and to assess whether or not it is adequately explained to the community how and when to use them safely. The role of smoke alarms as an alerting mechanism only needs to be reinforced whilst ensuring that the community understands that it is only one of a number of means of enhancing fire safety.

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