High-rise firefighting : firefighter preparedness to life-safety vulnerabilities
Coulthard, Chris James Wilson
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The city of Toronto is experiencing rapid growth in vertical settlement patterns with the construction of very tall high-rise residential buildings that are classified as super high-rise’s by the Ontario Building Code. Due to their height and complexity, SHR buildings present challenges for firefighters during firefighting operations. This research study was conducted to explore the preparedness of firefighters to these vulnerabilities which can impact life-safety and what limits or support preparedness. Using a mixed methods sequential design, a survey questionnaire was distributed to Toronto Fire Service firefighters, and this was followed by interviews; the survey and interviews explored firefighter risk perception, technical and environmental knowledge, training, and preparedness capacities. The findings suggested there were differences in commands and districts with respect to these measurable properties, and firefighters were also split in their perception of risk. In conclusion, the influencing factors that support or limit preparedness are leadership, technical and environmental knowledge, training, and budgetary and organizational priorities. Optimism bias and technical and environmental knowledge were found to influence firefighters’ risk perception and their ability to accurately assess risk. Keywords: Super high-rise, preparedness, risk perception, vulnerabilities, training, technical and environmental knowledge, capacity.
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