The SFPE Engineering Guide to Application of Risk Assessment in Fire Protection Design provides guidance for the use of risk assessment methodologies in the design and assessment of building and/or process fire safety. This document provides guidance to qualified practitioners in the selection and use of fire risk assessment methodologies in the design and assessment of fire safety. It also provides guidance to project stakeholders in addressing fire risk acceptability. This guide establishes a recommended process to be utilized for the use of risk assessment methodologies and provides references to available detailed sources of information on risk assessment methodologies, procedures, and data sources. However, it does not provide specific fire risk assessment methodologies or tools; nor does this guide provide specific data or acceptance criteria for use in the risk assessment process. (Some specific tools, methods, and criteria are provided as examples. The information cited in the examples does not necessarily constitute the correct or only information pertinent to a specific assessment). The following figure outlines the process outlined in the SFPE Guide.
An Overview of Approaches and Resources for Building Fire Risk Assessment
An article from the 2013, Q3 issue of Fire Protection Engineering magazine provides an overview of the fire risk assessment process. As noted in this article, Fire risk assessment is one way to determine the potential risk of a fire in a building. It involves determining what could happen, the likelihood of that event, and the consequences. The first step is to identify the objective of the risk assessment, the measures used to express risk, and how the risk measures will be presented for decision making purposes. How the risk is presented can have a great impact on how it is perceived, so it is important to consider the audience and how they will best understand.
When a fire hazard such as a candle ignites something it is called an event, if this fire spreads to adjacent fuels it becomes a scenario. A fire scenario is a qualitative, time-sequence-based description of a fire. These can be grouped into scenario clusters that share some of the same characteristics. Clusters provide frequency data for similar scenarios which can be found from reliable sources such as NFPA, Center for Chemical Process Safety, and NFIRS database. Consequence analyses are often done using analytical or computer tools. Risk estimation is done by combining information from the frequency and consequence analyses. There are many ways to do a risk assessment including qualitatively, semi quantitatively, quantitatively, event trees, or with a benefit-cost approach.
A number of organizations have prepared guidance documents that are useful for fire risk assessment. The SFPE Engineering Guide: Fire Risk Assessment is aimed at qualified practitioners who are undertaking design and evaluation of buildings and/ or process safety. NFPA 551, Guide for the Evaluation of Fire Risk Assessments is directed at those responsible for approving or evaluating fire and life safety solutions based on a fire risk assessment, particularly where it is being used in a performance-based regulatory framework. BS 7974-7, Probabilistic Risk Assessment provides guidance with regard to acceptance criteria for life safety and financial assessments, which may use either comparative or absolute methodologies. ISO 16732-1 Fire Safety Engineering – Fire Risk Assessment provides the conceptual basis for fire risk assessment by stating the principles underlying the quantification and interpretation of fire related risk. Finally, textbooks can be a useful tool for fire risk assessment. New chapters have been added to the SFPE Handbook of Fire Protection Engineering on various aspects of fire risk assessment. Evaluation of Fire Safety, Extreme Event Mitigation in Buildings: Analysis and Design17, Risk Analysis in Building Fire Safety Engineering, Principles of Fire Risk Assessment in Buildings, and Quantitative Risk Assessment in Fire Safety.