Introduction: Fire hazards are an extreme risk to occupants of high-rise buildings. Little attention has been paid to emergency and evacuation preparedness among people living in high-rise buildings. This paper reports on emergency fire preparedness among residents of a high-rise building that has experienced multiple fires in the past.
Methods: An exploratory qualitative pilot study was conducted using key informant interviews. Six residents participated. Themes on preparedness for fires and emergency evacuation were extracted.
Results: Findings indicated varying levels of preparedness for fires and emergency evacuation among residents. Factors influencing residents’ emergency preparedness included fire risk perception, owner or renter status, and building-level emergency preparedness. Fire alarms were considered to be an ineffective evacuation cue. Severe cues such as seeing fire or smoke were more likely to prompt evacuation. Participants provided a series of suggestions to keep high-rise residents safe during fire emergencies.
Discussion: The study revealed fire preparedness knowledge, decision-making processes, and actual behaviors of residential high-rise occupants who experienced a fire emergency in their building. Main findings of the study are discussed in two themes: influences on fire emergency and evacuation preparedness, and evacuation decision-making and response to fire. Results from this pilot study will be used as the basis for a follow up study involving residents from multiple high-rise buildings.
Keywords: disaster, emergency preparedness, evacuation, fire, hazard, high-rise building, pilot study, qualitative research