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Role of Uncertainty in Improving Fire Protection Regulation.

pdf icon Role of Uncertainty in Improving Fire Protection Regulation. (17792 K)
Notarianni, K. A.

THESIS; 269 p. April 2000.


fire protection; regulations; fire protection engineering; uncertainty; fire safety; safety engineering; methodology; costs; building fires; sprinklers; cost effectiveness; residential sprinklers


This dissertation defines an important role for uncertainty analysis in the adoption and implementation of improved fire protection regulations, both prescriptive and performance. It makes specific contributions to each of fifteen stakeholder groups who play a role in the conception, design, use, and maintenance of a building. This dissertation promotes an understanding of the nature and sources of uncertainty, develops a common language among fire-safety professionals, and facilitates stakeholder discussions. Seven barriers to determining and documenting a level of fire safety for a given project are identified and the potential for switchover in the acceptability of a design is demonstrated. A taxonomy is created that is useful as a aid in understanding, identifying, and investigating uncertainties as a function of the steps in a fire safety-engineering calculation. A generic methodology for the treatment of uncertainty in fire-safety engineering calculations is proposed. This methodology structures and quantifies many aspects of good engineering and policy analysis as applied to fire-safety engineering. The process developed is iterative and shows where effort should be made to treat complexity and where best-guess or average numbers can be used. Modifications to the current performance-based design process are suggested to provide for integration of uncertainty analysis. Presentation of a case study shows the importance of a model that properly incorporates uncertainty over a traditional deterministic model. A model that handles the critical uncertainties is even more important as policymakers move toward a performance-based design context. Results of the case study provide insights useful for selecting design criteria, improving code language, and establishing research programs to support performance-based fire safety designs that ensure fire-safe buildings. Through an evaluation of the cost-effectiveness of mandating residential fire sprinklers, this dissertation also demonstrates the value of properly incorporating variability and uncertainty in a cost-effectiveness and benefit-cost decision-making context. For the residential sprinkler problem, this was accomplished by discretizing national average values of fire statistics and costs by area of the country, community size, house type, and house age. This study shows that mandating residential fire sprinklers in new mobile homes can be cost-effective when compared to other residential life-saving options.