Fire incidences in buildings are phenomenon that can be avoided but which nevertheless occurs. Reasons for its occurrence include but not limited to:
1. Acts of arson
2. Faulty electrical equipment
3. Human error
4. Poor maintenance of heating equipment
5. Natural events such as lightening
To avoid fire incidences, buildings should be designed to minimize the probability of a fire and to protect life and limit property damage if a fire should occur. The steps to achieve this include:
1. Limit potential fire loads, with respect to both combustibility and ability to generate smoke and toxic gases.
2. Provide means for prompt detection of fires, with warnings to occupants who may be affected and notification of the presence of fire to fire fighters.
3. Communication of instructions to occupants as to procedures to adopt for safety, such as to staying in place, proceeding to a designated refuge area, or evacuating the building.
4. Provide means for early extinguishment of any fire that may occur, primarily by automatic sprinklers but also by trained fire-fighters.
5. Make available also for fighting an adequate water supply, appropriate chemicals, adequate-size piping, conveniently located valves on the piping, hoses, pumps, and other necessary equipment.
6. Prevent spread of fire from building to building, either through adequate separation or by enclosure of the building with incombustible materials.
7. Partition the interior of the building with fire barriers, or divisions, to confine a fire to a limited space.
8. Enclose with protective materials structural components that may be damaged by fire (fireproofing).
9. Provide refuge areas for occupants and safe evacuation routes to outdoors.
10. Provide means for removal of heat and smoke from the building as rapidly as possible without exposing occupants to these hazards, with air-conditioning system, if one is present, assisting the removal by venting the building and by pressurizing smokeproof towers, elevator shafts, and other exits.
11. For large buildings, install standby equipment for operation in emergencies of electrical systems and elevators.
Merrit, F.S. and Ricketts, J.T. (2000). Building Design and Construction Handbook (6th edition). McGraw Hill, London.