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Perception and recollection of fire hazards in dwelling fires

Perception and recollection of fire hazards in dwelling fires

Hulse, Lynn M. ORCID: 0000-0001-5582-3520, Galea, Edwin R. ORCID: 0000-0002-0001-6665, Thompson, Owain F. and Wales, David (2019) Perception and recollection of fire hazards in dwelling fires. Safety Science, 122:104518. ISSN 0925-7535 (doi:

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Current understanding of dwelling fire injury outcomes is impacted by data limitations, confounds, and failures to adequately examine occupant behaviour. For instance, research rarely considers: occupant perception of fire hazard properties (e.g. size of flames/smoke when first encountered); resultant engagement (enter smoky room, tackle flames); whether hazard size percepts are accurate when recollected for investigators; and what the best recollection method is. Two experiments (N = 141, 132) presented short videos of kitchen fires where hazard size was either Small, Mid or Large. Immediately after seeing this (Experiment 1), or after a delay (Experiment 2), participants’ performance at recollecting hazard size and their willingness to (hypothetically) engage with the hazards was tested. Recollection performance was compared across three methods. Interestingly, free recall resulted in poor performance but performance improved by 2-3 times when using two types of layperson-friendly descriptors (text, pictures) that allowed hazard size to be referenced to other scene elements. Pictures had a slight advantage over text descriptors. Larger hazards were recollected less accurately than small ones, albeit still somewhat meaningfully; the exception was mid-sized smoke and attentional narrowing effects are discussed. Importantly, while increased hazard size reduced willingness, a concerning percentage of participants nevertheless considered engaging with the largest hazards; such risky behaviours may explain injury outcomes. Prior fire experience and gender affected recollection and willingness, often interacting with hazard size. Delayed recollection and individual differences did not. These findings suggest occupant behaviour, characteristics and hazard size data need capturing to help assess fire injury risks.

Item Type: Article
Uncontrolled Keywords: Dwelling fire; Flame; Smoke; Perception; Memory; Risk
Faculty / School / Research Centre / Research Group: Faculty of Engineering & Science > Centre for Numerical Modelling & Process Analysis (CNMPA)
Faculty of Engineering & Science > Centre for Numerical Modelling & Process Analysis (CNMPA) > Fire Safety Engineering Group (FSEG)
Faculty of Engineering & Science > School of Computing & Mathematical Sciences (CMS)
Faculty of Engineering & Science
Last Modified: 04 Mar 2022 13:06

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