Human Behavior in Fires

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Human behavior plays a crucial role during most fire-related accidents. A wide range of human behavior has been observed during fires in different locations and under various circumstances. Research studies of human behavior during fires includes studying people’s coping strategies, awareness, attitudes, beliefs, and motivations when they are exposed to the danger of fire emergencies in buildings and transportation system. To see the scope of important variables affecting human behavior in fires, a multidisciplinary approach that involves taking into consideration opinions by practitioners from such fields as psychology, engineering, computer science, mathematics is needed. In the following paper, three research studies on human behavior in fires will be addressed with the purpose of comparing their methodologies and findings and making conclusions regarding their effectiveness.

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In human behavior in fire studies, the primary focus is on minimizing the level of risk which people may be subjected to during fire emergency cases. To examine different approaches to this matter, the three following research studies were chosen: “Moving toward a Coherent Approach to Safety and Risk Management” by Apicella, “Research Study on Human Behavior in Fire” by Bruck, and “Common Denominators of Human Behavior on Tragedy Fires” by Sutton. In his research study, Apicello resorts to the use of the scientific method which includes collecting and evaluating qualitative and quantitative figures received from various sources. This method can be also qualified as the reviewing study design. The main findings by Apicello are in the determination of factors that may deter people that are fleeing from sites affected by fire, and assessing the importance of preventive strategies that could help people to create internal escape routes from different sites beforehand. Among the most significant of those factors are smoke obscuration, fire characteristics including heat and smell, familiarity with escape routes, light levels, fire exit signs, advice provided (existing guidance prior to fire), and characteristics such as infirmity or age (Apicello, 2011). Besides, one of the most important findings of this research study was in monitoring the efficiency of using the time of escaping from fire affected sites that are ordained in evacuation plans; it was identified that two thirds of this time is not used efficiently as under the effects of panic people do not do anything to save themselves (Apicello, 2011). This conclusion is used by the author to explain the importance of psychological work with people who may be potentially affected by fire beforehand – for example, during special practical sessions at their work cites. Apicello’s findings can be evaluated as well-weighed and supported by a number of evidence; however, there is some omission because the author does not pay much attention to implementing his findings in practice.

Next, evaluating the research study by Bruck, it should be stated that his methods are similar to Apicello’s ones to a certain degree, but this author also makes use of data received experimentally which makes his study method not only reviewing, but observational as well. The main findings by Bruck are in describing the main problems emerging during exit choice by people who become affected by fires. Evaluating a number of reliable sources and the results received by him experimentally, the author comes to a conclusion that people’s safety is difficult to guarantee because they are subjected to the effects of panic which changes their escape behavior, and causes unexpected and sad mistakes that may cost a person his or her life. The author also states that the time that people will use to evacuate themselves from an affected building is always longer than the time it takes them to move out of the building physically which can be explained by psychological peculiarities because people tend to be subjected to fear and uncertainty; that is why evacuation plans should include more time for evacuation from any particular site than it is established by physical figures of human capabilities (Bruck, 2009). Besides, movement in fires is determined by the aim of escaping; people will move to the exit that seems closer to them if it is not filled with smoke, and exit signs will help ensuring that people will find road to safety. Bruck’s findings have a special value because they are supported experimentally. In addition, the author provides a piece of advice on the practical implementation of his findings.

Further, Sutton’s research study is based on a reviewing study method. In this paper, the author examines the document “Some Common Denominators of Fire Behavior on Tragedy and Near-Miss Forest Fires” by Carl C. Wilson and James C. Sorenson and evaluates it through the prism of modern-day findings by a number of respected specialists including the specialists in the fields of psychology, engineering, and architecture. Thus, this research study is well-grounded and reliable because of a solid approach of its author. The main findings by Sutton are in determination the main factors which affect human behavior in fires; besides, whereas the paper by Wilson and Sorenson described nine important factors, Sutton identified eleven main factors and explained that modern-day situation requires a more thorough approach. Among these crucial factors are effective communication, clear direction, objectivity, and potential for rapid change in environmental conditions. According to Sutton (2011, p. 14), “the same basic set of decisions and actions might lead to a successful outcome in the morning and tragedy in the afternoon”. This is another important finding by the author which he supports by means of evaluating a number of examples from practice. Thus, he argues that in every particular case people including the victims and firefighters should act judging from the point of view of the situation which is currently explored at the affected site, and should take into account as many points as possible to make the best decisions. The following comment by Sutton helps see the way this strategy may be implemented in practice:

In recent years, it has become fashionable to refer to firefighters’ “loss of situational awareness” as an explanation for why they missed some important environmental cue. Thus, direction should come from management or the incident commander on objectives, time frames, and availability of additional resources. There are two key aspects to this factor. First, have clear objectives been articulated? And second, were those objectives clearly communicated to those who needed to know? (2011, p. 16).

In conclusion, evaluating the three research studies discussing varied aspects of human behavior in fire, I came to a conclusion that Sutton’s findings are the most reliable and valuable for implementing in practice. Sutton’s multidisciplinary approach to reviewing study method gave the best results because his findings widened the piece of knowledge existing before, and helped see the way people may minimize risks during fires in practice.

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Apicello, M. (2011). MOVING TOWARD A COHERENT APPROACH TO SAFETY AND RISK MANAGEMENT. Fire Management Today, 71(1), 6-10.

Bruck D. (2009). Research Study on human behavior in fire. Fire Safety Engineering, 16(9), 7-15.

Sutton, L. (2011). COMMON DENOMINATORS OF HUMAN BEHAVIOR ON TRAGEDY FIRES. Fire Management Today, 71(1), 13-18.

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PsychologyWriting. (2022, January 27). Human Behavior in Fires. Retrieved from


PsychologyWriting. (2022, January 27). Human Behavior in Fires.

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"Human Behavior in Fires." PsychologyWriting, 27 Jan. 2022,


PsychologyWriting. (2022) 'Human Behavior in Fires'. 27 January.


PsychologyWriting. 2022. "Human Behavior in Fires." January 27, 2022.

1. PsychologyWriting. "Human Behavior in Fires." January 27, 2022.


PsychologyWriting. "Human Behavior in Fires." January 27, 2022.