The Risk Imposed by Fire to Buildings and How to Address It
Torero, Jose L
The history of fire science originates in the desire to enhance destruction of infrastructure by means of fire. Many of the basic principles of fire growth and the behaviour of structures in fire were developed within the context of an organized and deliberate attempt to use fire as a tool for urban destruction. Buildings are inherently vulnerable to fire due to their use, thus they have to be designed with the objective of minimizing the probability of fire occurrence and of damage potential. Nevertheless, the design criteria rely mostly on scenarios that are considered to be consistent with the building use. Within the design process there is no consideration to premeditated fires or those corresponding to a strategy for destruction. Furthermore, generally design is done in a prescriptive manner and thus is framed by rules and regulations that do not provide an estimate of performance. Only a detailed understanding of the performance of a building or structure in the event of a fire can allow estimating and understanding its vulnerabilities and can result in a strategy to minimize the impact of fire as a tool for terrorism.