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NFPA Report Finds Fire Risk Lower in High-Rise Buildings

Posted on: January 26, 2012

Here’s an interesting statistic: according to a new report from the NFPA, high-rise buildings actually tend to have a lower risk of fire and associated losses than lower-rise buildings! Fires in high-rise buildings cause about $230 million a year in property damage and take more than 50 lives. Overall, however, this represented only 2.6% of all reported structure fires from 2005-2009.

According to the report, 2005 – 2009 saw an average of 15,700 reported structure fires per year with associated losses of 53 civilian deaths, 546 civilian injuries and $235 million in direct property damage.

About half of all high-rise building fires occur among four classes of high-rises that the NFPA categorizes: office buildings, hotels, apartment buildings and health care facilities. The association notes that some property uses, such as stores and restaurants, may represent a single floor or space in a tall building with other uses. They also take into consideration how home structures, such as grain elevators and factories, can be as tall as a high rise building but without a number of separate floors or stories.

A Positive Downward Trend

High-rise fires have seen a downward trend over the past decades, a trend that appears to line up with the increased use of fire protection systems, particularly fire sprinkler systems, as well as changes in building codes and standards (of course, the NFPA also acknowledges this could be due in part to fewer large cities participating in the fire reporting system).

The report concludes, “By most measures of loss, the risks of fire and of associated fire loss are lower in high-rise buildings than in other buildings of the same property loss.”

Other Findings from the Report

The report turned up some other interesting tidbits of information as well. For instance, most high-rise building fires begin on the sixth story or below. The percentage of 2005-2009 high-rise fires that began on the seventh floor or above was 39% for office buildings,32%for apartments, 22% for hotels and motels and 21% for health care facilities. The risk of a fire start is greater on the lower floors for apartments, hotels and health care facilities, but greater on the upper floors for office buildings.

High-rise apartments have a slightly larger share of their fires originating in means of egress than do their shorter counterparts (4% vs. 3%) but in all four property classes, the differences are so small that there really is no evidence that high-rise buildings have a bigger problem with fires starting in means of egress.

Given this report, the data is clear – you need to have a fire sprinkler system in your building! Call Guardian Fire Protection today to have fire sprinkler system inspection!

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