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The risks of fire, from either natural or man-made causes, can never be completely eliminated. The objective of control of risk from fires is to reduce the probability and consequences of events leading to fires to a level where the residual risks are commensurate with the benefits of society's undertakings. Involuntary and inequitably distributed risks must be considered as well as voluntary ones.
On a systemic level, the causes of fires may be identified and the risk of their occurrence estimated. This need not be done in detail, but major contributors to accidental and purposeful fires can be identified, especially in buildings. A second step is addressing control through prevention and mitigation during and after occurrence. The cost-effectiveness of the risk reduction of these approaches provides a first-level ordering of where to apply resources. The ability to implement such control actions realistically through standards, inspections, building codes, and so on, provides a means for reordering priorities.
The impact of acceptable levels of risk, established by societal requirements through the voluntary standard-setting process, is also addressed. Both acceptance and achievement standards are discussed.
fire, fire risk assessment
Director, Institute for Risk Analysis, American University, Washington, D.C.,