Dwelling Fires: Risk Factors in Saudi Arabia

Subject: Risk Management
Pages: 65
Words: 20712
Reading time:
72 min
Study level: PhD

Introduction

Comprehensive Fire Safety Effectiveness Model is composed of several components; one of such components is evaluating the risk associated with fire in the dwelling areas. Fire risk assessment is a process that entails scrutinizing and evaluating the various conditions that expose the community to be susceptible to fire hazards. With this regard, it is imperative to conduct an analysis relating to the chances of the fire risk taking place and the potential consequences that are associated with the risk. In a nutshell, the assessment of fire risk addresses the following questions:

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  1. what event is likely to happen?;
  2. when could the event take place?;
  3. where could the event take place?;
  4. who could be affected by the event?;
  5. why could the event take place?;
  6. what are the chances of the event taking place?; and
  7. what are the possible consequences or repercussions of the event?.

When this information is in place, an elaborate plan for managing and mitigating the fire risk is put into play in order to prevent and control the likely damages that might be brought about by the risk.

Risk

The term ‘Risk’ was first used in the year 1621. In the same year, the Oxford English Dictionary provided a definition of risk as the susceptibility to the likelihood of destruction, loss, damage and other unexpected natural calamities; therefore, risk centers on conditions that favor such likelihoods (Federal Emergency Management Agency, 1997, p. 15). Some sociologists hold the view that risk came into existence as a result of the shift from the traditional society to modern society. Risk occurs in various spheres of life, i.e. there is social risk, political risk, economic risk, technological risk, and so on (Karter and Donner, 1978, p. 55).

Definition

The term ‘Risk’ in the context of this study can be taken to mean the outcome of uncertainty on intentions. Uncertainties refer to events which have a possibility of occurring or not occurring, and these uncertainties exist as a result of limited information available or vagueness of the available information (Stone, 1993, p. 34; Smith, 1994, P. 3). Risk, therefore, is an assessment of the probability and the results of an extreme effect to humans, assets, corporations, environment and society as an outcome of a related event, action or process (Federal Emergency Management Agency, 1997, p. 15). With regard to this study the event that is associated to the risk refers to the occurrence of fire together with its consequence relating to smoke effects, heat effects, and other harmful effects that stem from the incident.

There are varied definitions of the term ‘Risk’; each definition is unique in its own way and also entails that different systems to control and manage the risk are put into place. For instance, in the field of computer science, the term ‘Risk’ can be taken to mean the possibility that unwanted programs might find their way into the computer systems and thereby leading to corruption of files and documents; the remedy for this kind of risk is to put into play efficient information security apparatus. In the same way, in the field of finance, financial risk entails the fact that the invested instrument might not yield the expected returns; this provides another dimension and aspect of risk as it requires another different remedy (Federal Emergency Management Agency, 1997, p. 8).

Probability levels of fire risk

The probability level of fire risk is usually calculated with regard to the number of fire incidents experienced in the past. In order to estimate the probability level, it is important to have information or data relating to past fire occurrences. These information or data may entail data involving past fire loss, information on experiences from related municipalities and also information generated from members of the society relating to their past experiences with fire incidences (Munson, 1983, p. 193). In addition to this, it is important to make proficient judgments with regard to the past fire experiences so as to calculate the likelihood levels.

There are five probability levels that are associated to fire risks. They include: (a) level one – rare: this implies that the risk may only take place in special situations. Based on the past fire experiences; it is expected that when the probability level of the risk is rare, then no fire incident has taken place in the last 15 years. (b) level two – unlikely: this implies that the risk can take place only if the current conditions change in its favor; it is expected that when the probability level of the risk is unlikely, then fire incidences have been reported in the last 5 to 15 years. (c) level three – possible: this implies that the risk can take place with the current existing conditions; it is expected that when the probability level of the risk is possible, then one incident has been reported in the past 5 years. (d) level four – likely: this implies that the risk is expected to occur at any time in line with the existing conditions; it is expected that when the probability level of the risk is likely, then many fire incidents have been reported in the past 5 years. (e) level five – almost certain: this implies that the risk is certain to occur unless the current existing conditions change; it is expected that when the probability level of the risk is almost certain, then very many incidences have occurred in the past one year.

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When estimating the level of risk probability, it is essential to use the rate of the incidents occurring as a guide. This rate varies from one community to another; hence, the study focuses on Saudi Arabia as the case study.

Consequence Levels

The consequence level refers to the possible damages, losses or harmful repercussions that are connected with the occurrence of the event (Sternlieb and Burchell, 1973, P. 30). Consequence levels are computed after making proficient judgments and analyzing the past incidences. When measuring the confidence level with regard to fire risks, four components are taken into consideration:

  1. safety of life: this implies the bodily harm or deaths to the house occupants or firefighters as a result of being exposed to the harmful effects of fire such as heat and smoke.
  2. loss of assets: this implies the destruction of buildings, valuable property or assets and important infrastructures by fire hazards.
  3. economic effect: this implies the loss of money as a result of destruction of buildings, destruction of businesses, loss of jobs and decline in the tourism industry caused by the fire outbreak.
  4. environmental effect: this implies the damage to the physical environment that is caused by the fire outbreak.

Fire destroys the habitat for many species of animals or plants. It also leads to the contamination of soil, thus, making the land to be unproductive (Federal Emergency Management Agency, 1997, p. 15).

The fire consequence levels can be grouped into five categories with regard to their harshness:

  1. level one – insignificant: this implies that the consequence of fire does not result to any loss of human life or property; only a limited value of property is destroyed. In addition, the fire hazard does not change the conditions of living or the economic condition (Karter and Donner, 1978, p. 55).
  2. level two – minor: this implies that the fire risk poses a possible threat to human life, a small value of property is destroyed and there is a negligible effect on the business environment and also on the conditions of living.
  3. level three – moderate: this implies that the fire incident has an average threat to human life and property; in addition, the fire poses an average threat to the business environment and to the conditions of living (McEntire, 2004, p. 25).
  4. level four – major: this implies that the fire incident poses a huge threat to human life and can result to a great loss of life and property. In addition, the fire incident causes great damage to the business environment and tourism. The damage caused by fire to the environment is enough to call for evacuation of the residents and the local businesses (Federal Emergency Management Agency, 1997, p. 15).
  5. level four – catastrophic: this implies that the fire incident results to fatal deaths and collateral damage of property. In addition, the fire incident results to a lasting interruption of the business environment and tourism. Also, the fire incident can result to a lasting evacuation of residents and businesses (Munson, 1983, p. 193).

Overall Level of Risk and Priority

When the probability levels and the consequence levels of the fire risk are allocated to the extreme effects of the risks associated to fire, then an overall level of risk is achieved (Stone, 1993, p. 34; Smith, 1994, P. 3); this can be analyzed through the utilization of the Risk Analysis Matrix tool. The matrix is designed in a way that the bottom right corner contains the highest overall level of risk, while the top left corner of the matrix contains the lowest overall level of risk. One benefit of the Risk Analysis Matrix tool is that it makes it possible for the categorization and ordering of the circumstances that necessitate the occurrence of the risks.

Table 2.1 Risk Analysis Matrix. Source: Federal Emergency Management Agency, 1997, p. 8.

RISK ANALYSIS MATRIX-Level of Risk (Priority level)
Probability Consequence
1 (Insignificant) 2
(Minor)
3 (Moderate) 4
(Major)
5 (Catastrophic)
1
(Rare)
L (L1) L (L1) M (L2) H (L3) H (L3)
2
(Unlikely)
L (L1) L (L1) M (L2) H (L3) E (L4)
3
(Possible)
L (L1) M (L2) H (L3) E (L4) E (L4)
4
(Likely)
M (L2) H (L3) H (L3) E (L4) E (L4)
5 (Almost Certain) H (L3) H (L3) E (L4) E (L4) E (L4)

The risk and priority levels are defined as follows:

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  • L = Low Risk

Priority Level 1 (L1)-manage by routine programs and procedures, maintain risk monitoring

  • M = Moderate RiskPriority Level 2 (L2)-requires specific allocation of management responsibility including monitoring and response procedures
  • H = High RiskPriority Level 3 (L3)-community threat, senior management attention needed
  • E = Extreme RiskPriority Level 4 (L4)-serious threat, detailed research and management planning required at senior levels

Community Fire Risk Factors

The defining attributes of a fire risk always influence the kinds of fire risks that the community is susceptible to. For instance, the kind of fire risk that a household is vulnerable to is greatly different from the kind of fire risk that an industrial center is susceptible to (Karter and Donner, 1978, p. 55). In the same way, a neighborhood with old fashioned buildings will have a different level of fire threats as compared to a neighborhood with new modern buildings. In addition, a society that encompasses older and senior people will have a different kind of challenge as compared to a society that consists of younger and youthful individuals (Stone, 1993, p. 34; Smith, 1994, P. 3).

It is very essential to be familiar with the appropriate information regarding the attributes of a particular community before proceeding to evaluate the level of fire risk that it is prone to. There are a total of eight known factors that contribute to the occurrence of fire risks; the factors include: property stock, building height and area, building age and construction, building exposures, demographic profile, geography/topography/road infrastructure, past fire loss statistics, and fuel load.

Property Stock

It is very important to maintain a detailed record of the stock of property that is at the disposal of the community; this assists in maintaining a good inventory and planning for the potential fire hazards (Munson, 1983, p. 193). Maintaining the property stock encompasses conducting a physical count of the occupants in the building and also maintaining a record about the total assets or property that are within the premises. Buildings have been grouped into various classifications with regard to their proneness to the risk of fire incidences.

Assembly Occupancy

An assembly building is a kind of building that normally hosts a gathering of people at any given time. These people gather in the buildings for various reasons, including: political reasons, social reasons, recreational reasons, educational reasons, social reasons, and so on. Because these buildings normally host people from different walks of life, they are highly decorated and furnished; these furnishings and decorations often are combustible. In addition, the lighting system in these buildings is always dim. It is required that special attention should be given to these buildings in order to minimize the chances of fire risks. Only the required number of people should be allowed in these buildings at any given time. Fire or smoke detectors should also be fitted appropriately.

Care or Detention Occupancy

These buildings host people who mainly rely on others to receive special care or attention. Example of such buildings includes prisons, hospitals, home-cares, etc. Many residents in these buildings are vulnerable and are exposed to various challenges. Hospitals contain various chemicals that are highly combustible, and in the event of a fire outbreak a fatal disaster might occur. One major challenge that is faced by these buildings is the inability to evacuate and relocate the residents (patients or inmates) at times of calamities like fire. These buildings need to be equipped with the fire fighting tools and the workers in these buildings need to receive an elaborate training on how to manage disasters (McEntire, 2004, p. 25).

Residential Occupancies

This is the kind of occupancy whereby the residents are granted with accommodation facilities. These residents are always here by choice and they are not held against their wills. Studies have revealed that fires resulting from residential occupancies have a chance of 70% of occurring and 90% chance of causing a lot of deaths (Sternlieb and Burchell, 1973, P. 30). In addition, residential houses that are situated in multi-storied buildings are more susceptible to fire related risks.

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Business and Personal Services Occupancies

This is the type of occupancy that hosts the business environment and process. Most of these buildings are multi-storied; hence, the population of the occupants during business hours is quite large. These buildings are highly furnished and decorated with combustible materials; thus, they are very prone to fire risks. Much effort should be employed toward eradicating the fire incidents in all ways possible.

Mereantile Occupancies

These are buildings that serve the purpose of displaying and trading of goods, commodities and other stuff. These mereantile occupancies are so large and they host many people and contain all types of combustible goods. The buildings are designed in a way that the customers might get confused on the locations of the entry and exit points. In addition, the customers might not be familiar with the fire assembly points.

The high number of occupants in these buildings poses a major challenge, especially when a fire risk occurs. It is recommended that these buildings should be fitted with appropriate signs that indicate the entry points, the exit points and the fire assembly points with the aim of guiding the customers to prepare for any possible events (Federal Emergency Management Agency, 1997, p. 8).

High/Medium/Low Hazard Industrial Occupancies

Industrial occupancies are used for gathering, constructing, manufacturing, developing, refurbishing and stocking up of goods and other merchandise. Industrial occupancies have three levels of hazards, i.e. low hazards (F3), medium hazards (F2) and high hazards (F1). These levels are with regard to their susceptibility to fire risk (Karter and Donner, 1978, p. 55).

Industrial occupancies plays host to many combustible equipments. These equipments present different levels of threats to the building; hence, safety measures should be enhanced appropriately. When industrial fires occur, large losses to property, business or life are involved; hence, it is beneficial to prevent this kind of damage.

Other Properties

Building premises that contain materials that are highly combustible should be given special consideration. These kinds of buildings include warehouses or other storage facilities. These storage facilities store a wide range of combustible equipments like gases, recycling equipments and other highly inflammable materials. In addition, much consideration should be given to the modes of transportation that deal with transportation of inflammable commodities so as to avert major disasters (Munson, 1983, p. 193).

Building Height and Area

Building Height

It has been observed that bigger buildings pose a different level of fire risk susceptibility from smaller buildings, suppose they are located in the same area. Bigger buildings cannot handle the occurrence of risks like the smaller buildings. One of the reasons attributed to this is because bigger buildings have a larger population of people since the building has many floors. In addition, due to the high population it takes quite a longer time to evacuate all the residents in case a fire tragedy occurs; there is much overcrowding of people during evacuation. Another reason is that: due to the large size of the buildings, it is very hard to communicate effectively and quickly with everybody during times of hazards. Due to the fact that these buildings are tall, they require much energy source to power its operations; as a result of this, the building is much exposed to hazards relating to fire risks. The tallness of the buildings also hinder the firefighters to fight the fires as they take a longer time to climb up and down the stairs; this is due to the fact that they share the stairwell with the crowd that gather around during times of such calamities.

Building Area

Building area refers to the set up in which the building is constructed. Buildings which are constructed in densely populated industrialized areas pose a great challenge than buildings in quiet places. In addition, firefighters find it very hard to attend to buildings that are located in industrial centers due to the fact that they are horizontally extended, thus, making it so hard for evacuation process (Stone, 1993, p. 34; Smith, 1994, P. 3).

It is important that these buildings should be constructed with strict safety measures, i.e. warehouses should be open with a wide space so as to facilitate easier access to the fire fighters in case of any hazard. Warehouses may at times contain highly combustible goods which make them prone to fire hazards (Sternlieb and Burchell, 1973, P. 30).

Building Age and Construction

In order to avert future incidences of fire occurrence, it is beneficial for the building caretakers to maintain a proper inventory of the buildings. Maintaining a proper inventory will help to pin point the basic threats that the building is exposed to and also in preparing for any possible event. However, it is worthy to note that old fashioned and aged buildings have a different level of challenge as compared to new modern buildings (Federal Emergency Management Agency, 1997, p. 8).

Building/Fire Code Application

Municipalities have passed regulations regarding the construction of new buildings and the maintenance of old buildings. When constructing new buildings, various stakeholders are engaged so as to ensure that the buildings are constructed in compliance with the required standards and specifications.

In order to maximize the protection for the building occupants, many buildings are constructed with anticipations of various risks; hence, when these risks take place, the buildings are efficiently prepared to handle them. The various security issues that are looked at when constructing buildings include: the expected occupants, the height and area of the building, the materials to be used for construction (combustible materials should be minimally used), the installation of fire equipments like alarms and extinguishers, the provision of space for fire extinguishers to access, planning for emergencies, and planning for efficient management and inspection of the building (Munson, 1983, p. 193).

Residential Buildings

This is the kind of building whereby the residents are granted with accommodation facilities. These residents are always here by choice and they are not held against their wills. Studies have revealed that fires resulting from residential occupancies have a chance of 70% of occurring and 90% chance of causing a lot of deaths (Karter and Donner, 1978, p. 55). In addition, residential houses that are situated in multi-storied buildings are more susceptible to fire related risks.

Multi-unit Lowrise and Highrise Buildings

Higher buildings cannot handle the occurrence of risks like the shorter buildings. One of the reasons attributed to this is because bigger buildings have a larger population of people since the building has many floors. In addition, due to the high population it takes quite a longer time to evacuate all the residents in case a fire tragedy occurs; there is much overcrowding of people during evacuation. Another reason is that: due to the large size of the buildings, it is very hard to communicate effectively and quickly with everybody during times of hazards. Due to the fact that these buildings are tall, they require much energy source to power its operations; as a result of this, the building is much exposed to hazards relating to fire risks. The tallness of the buildings also hinder the firefighters to fight the fires as they take a longer time to climb up and down the stairs; this is due to the fact that they share the stairwell with the crowd that gather around during times of such calamities.

Building Exposures

Buildings are more exposed to fire risk when they are located in areas with high building densities; this is because of the fact that these buildings are very close to each other. In addition, lack of enough space between the buildings prevents the firefighters to maneuver easily. When a fire starts from a building and spreads to the neighboring buildings, it is referred to as an exposure fire (Sternlieb and Burchell, 1973, P. 30).

When these buildings have already been constructed, it is very hard to increase the spaces between them; thus, it is highly advisable that these buildings should be fitted with the correct apparatus for fighting fire in case of any hazard. In addition, the caretakers or the stakeholders of the buildings should be well aware of the major threats that pose a challenge to the buildings (Sternlieb and Burchell, 1973, P. 30).

There are various factors that make the neighboring buildings to be exposed to fire hazards. These factors include: heat and longevity of the fire, part of the building exposed, size of the part of the building exposed, alignment of the walls with each other, availability of firefighters, and the inability to detect early fires (McEntire, 2004, p. 25). There are various ways that have been devised to mitigate fire risks. These ways include: installing sprinklers in the buildings, erecting firewalls to separate the buildings, and fitting the buildings with firefighting equipments to prepare for any possible events.

Demographics Profile

Each fire challenge is in line with the demographic profile that is at hand. The means for preventing fire risks depends on the various shifts of the community’s population; thus, it is relevant to maintain a demographic report of the community in order to be familiar with the profiles of the people who are being looked after (Munson, 1983, p. 193). The various information about the population that is gathered under demographic profile include: the distribution of the population by age; the various shifts of the population; the portion of the population that is susceptible to fire risk; factors that hinder public education on fire risks; and the levels of income of the people.

Distribution of the population by age

When the profile of the population is created with regard to the distribution by age, it becomes easier to point out the members of the society who are susceptible to fire risk and set up strategies to provide them with adequate assistance (Karter and Donner, 1978, p. 55). When the death rates of the various age sets associated with fire risks are calculated and analyzed, then the fire death rate of the population distribution in terms of age is determined. That is to say:

Fire Death Rate = No. of fire deaths associated with age segment x 1,000,000

Population associated with age segment. Source: Munson, 1983, p. 193.

A study conducted in Saudi Arabia with regard to the fire death rate of the various age sets of the population revealed that the fire death rate starts to increase at the age set of 50 to 64 years old. Based on this study, the overall population’s level of fire death rate was set at 8.4 deaths per every million people. Beyond the age of 85 years old, the portion of the population is totally exposed and is much susceptible to fire risk; hence, a very high level of death rates.

It is very evident that older people pose a major challenge to fire risk in Saudi Arabia. This could be attributed to the fact that as a person grows older, his/her physical abilities deteriorate so much. This can cause them to lose some important senses such as eyesight, hearing, and acquire other forms of illnesses. Because of their weak physiologies, the aging people are so vulnerable to the harmful effects of heat and smoke when a fire tragedy occurs.

It is postulated that the fire death rate of the older age set of the population will continue to increase if measures to tone down the fire risks are not undertaken for this particular group of the population. It is, therefore, very beneficial to protect the older people as they hold a high position in the society.

The study also found out that younger children who are below the age of 5 years are more susceptible to fire risks. This is attributed to the fact that children at this age are not yet mature enough and entirely depend on the adults for care and provision of safety. In addition, their physical abilities are still not yet developed; hence, they can hardly stand the harmful effects of heat and smoke. Moreover, children at this age are adventurous and they can be tempted to play with fire or combustible items out of their curiosity; this could result to fatal damage.

Population Shifts

The population of the community always shifts in different forms throughout the year; these shifts have various effects that call for measures to mitigate the fire risks. During the summer, several tourists come to visit; this results to increase in population. When the population increases, the vulnerability to fire risk is also increased. Apart from tourism, certain parts of the community might play a host to large events that always take place after a fixed period of time; this also results to a sharp increase of the population during such times, thus, raising the level of fire risks. Schools and colleges also host quite a number of people during school days; this also raises the level of fire risks in these places.

Another form of population shift is demonstrated in the case whereby a large portion leaves for town to work and get back to their homes in the evening. During this time, the population of the community is majorly reduced during the day and increases at night; this change in population at night presents a certain level of risk to the community.

Vulnerable Individuals

In order to avert a major fire tragedy, it is very important to identify the vulnerable members of the community. Such vulnerability is seen in terms of the age of the individuals (very young and very old), individuals who abuse drugs and alcohol, and other individuals with special needs. It is imperative that special attention should be given to hospitals, rehabilitation centers, children daycare centers and long-term care homes so as to be in a position to tackle any fire threat that might possibly occur.

Hindrances to Public Education

One of the biggest challenges facing public education is language barriers; this is due to the fact that Saudi Arabia is a country with diverse ethnicity. As a result of this, it has become increasingly difficult to teach the public on how to prevent and manage fire hazards in order to avert major losses to lives or property or businesses.

Levels of Income

There are high levels of fire incidences in low income dwelling. This is due to the fact that the population in these areas is very careless when it comes to preventing fire risks. Many empty buildings in these areas play host to the homeless or street children who drink and smoke carelessly. In addition, the owners of the buildings in these sites take too long to repair the building; thus, making them vulnerable to fire hazards. As a result of lower incomes, many occupants do not have the ability to purchase fire fighting equipments. The low income residents have the highest number of single parents who cannot effectively manage their children, thus exposing them to fire risks. Nevertheless, the low level of education in these places makes it so hard for the poor residents read the manuals that come with electrical appliances; hence, they cannot follow the instructions adequately.

Geography/Topography/Road Infrastructure

The ability of the firefighters to reach out to areas with fire outbreaks can be majorly affected by the geography, topography and the road quality that is in the area. In addition, it is very hard for the firefighters to maneuver in areas with harsh weather conditions. Once these obstacles have been noted, it is advisable that an evaluation of what needs to be done is carried out. The ultimate objective is to ensure that the fire department has an easy and a smooth access to the affected areas in good time to stop further damage to life or property (Sternlieb and Burchell, 1973, P. 30).

Roads and Access Routes

The conditions of the various roads or routes that exist within the community should be improved in order to grant easy access to the fire department. Maintenance should be carried out to the roads throughout the year to maintain their quality; in addition, the roads should be wide enough to accommodate the fire department trucks. In cases where there are railway crossings, alternative routes should be used in order to avoid delays. Also these roads should be maintained in such a way that they are not affected by extreme weather conditions (Karter and Donner, 1978, p. 55).

Traffic Patterns

Traffic patterns majorly concerns the urban areas. It is the degree at which these areas are prone to traffic jams. Traffic congestions normally cause unexpected delays to the firefighters when they are on course to stop a major fire tragedy. The patterns of the traffic should be reviewed so as to come up with a plan of the alternative route to use in case of any fire hazard.

Natural Terrain

The geography or topography of a community can affect the speed of response at times of fire tragedies. A lot of consideration should be given to hilly areas, areas prone to floods, islands, forests and wetlands so that proper response planning is undertaken.

Past Fire Loss Statistics

When a historical analysis of fire incidents that have taken place in the recent past is conducted, it becomes very possible to point out the possible risks and fire trends or patterns that are likely to affect the community. The data in the analysis should contain the figure of fire incidents, the figure of casualties, and the amount of property destroyed. When analyzing the past fire loss statistics, it is important to look at the type of occupancy, the age of casualties, the fire cause, the point of origin of the fire, the frequency of the fire occurrence, the time of fire occurrence, and the level of responses to the fire.

The analysis of the past fire losses is very beneficial in yielding information that is relevant in making comparisons and planning for responses. It is very beneficial for the community to conduct this kind of analysis in order to be in a good position to avert any major fire risk. Once this is done, relevant strategies can be put into play so as to prevent more fire hazards.

Fuel Load

Fuel load refers to the amount of combustible components that are contained in the building. These combustible materials affect the rate and the length of time at which the fire burns. The combustible equipments that can be contained in the building include: furniture, papers, window curtains, equipments in the office, attires, wall and floor finishes, combustible gases and combustible liquids. The rate of burning and the intensity of heat generated depend on the type of the combustible material; for instance, inflammable liquids or plastics produce a lot of heat as compared to combustible materials made of wood, paper or fabrics. In addition, plastics and combustible liquids release more toxic smokes.

Each building contains a relative quantity of fuel load; however, special consideration should be given to buildings that store or process a great amount of inflammable commodities that can easily trigger a fire incident and cause a big damage to life, property and the environment. Therefore, buildings that have a higher fuel load are more susceptible to fire risks than buildings which are not. It is recommended that these buildings should be fitted with fire sprinklers so as to contain the fire in case of any fire risk.

Socio-economic factors of dwelling fires

Socioeconomic factors are the common predicators of dwelling fires at a neighborhood level. Even though building structures have major impacts on fire incidence, currently the greater significance is given to how people use and maintain these buildings (Shaenman et al., 1987, p. 4). Nowadays most incidences of fire are as a result of cooking, heating, act of arson, smoking and other causes that are directly linked to human activities. These causes account for over 60 percent of the global residential fires (Department of Homeland Security, 2006).

Many research studies on the socioeconomic factors to dwelling fire were carried out and published during the 70s and early 80s. Since then the studies that have been carried out are mostly unpublished academic works limiting their availability to policy makers and other researchers (Fox and Billie Ann, 1995, p. 752). Even though the earlier studies are very significant in advancing our understanding of the socioeconomic factors to dwelling fires, the current studies are necessary to authenticate the persisting relevance of their relationships. Likewise, shifts in population have considerably transformed the earlier communities and this means the current studies have to be repeated to confirm the impact of these changes (National Fire Protection Association, 1996, p. 2).

Many studies on socioeconomic factors have directly or indirectly linked dwelling fires to lower levels of income. Earlier studies attempting to quantify these relationships had a number of significant findings.For instance, a study conducted by Shaenman, et al. (1987) established that inter-city comparison of resident fire rates was irrelevant. They found out that considerable variation in the fire rates in different cities made it very difficult to use socioeconomic factors to explain disparity in dwelling fires across these cities. As a result, they refocused their efforts on inter-city disparities in resident fire rates, employing census tracts as a basis of analysis (Shaenman, et al., 1987, p. 6).

In their study, Shaenman, et al., (1987) established that three elements were most effective in explaining disparity in fire rates among different cities. These included parental presence, poverty and school drop-out level/under-education (Shaenman, et al., 1987, p. 6). In addition to the above three variables, they also covered seven other variables but shallowly; they included: home ownership or the number of houses occupied by the owners; good quality education, or the number of individuals over the age of 25 with at least high school education; satisfactory income, or annual household income of over fifteen thousand dollars; housing crowdedness; a variable for the interaction of education and race and lastly a variable for race and poverty. They found out that at least each variable accounted for 20 percent of dwelling fires in U.S (Shaenman, et al., 1987, p. 7; Karter and Donner, 1978, p. 55).

Socio-economic factors of dwelling fires at the neighborhood level

To understand the variation of dwelling fires across different neighborhoods, it is significant to understand how neighborhood class is linked to dwelling fires. In general, the quality of the neighborhood mainly linked to its housing stock significantly determines the rate of dwelling fires. The quality of the housing stock, nevertheless, can be reduced by the inter-linked processes of dwelling fires and building abandonment (Clark, 1982, p. 41). The most commonly asked question is what makes poor neighborhood more susceptible to resident fire threats than other neighborhoods. The answer to this question lies in the following explanations.

Vacant and deserted buildings

Many neighborhoods in major cities tend to be separated based on income levels. Poor neighborhoods are mostly characterized by vacant and abandoned buildings than other residential neighborhoods. These vacant and deserted buildings present a great fire hazard for a number of reasons. First and foremost, they have high probability of catching fire than any other buildings (Sternlieb and Burchell, 1973, p. 28). According to Fox and Billie Ann (1995) vacated buildings were four times more prone to fire hazards than other structures. In addition, homeless individuals or those seeking shelters in such buildings normally contribute to fire hazards. This is mostly prevalent during the winter when those seeking shelter illegally in these buildings light fire to keep themselves warm. In many cases, these homeless individuals or those seeking shelter in these buildings are under the influence of hard drugs or alcohol. There is always an additional risk of careless use of smoking materials which can ignite the fire very easily (Alison, 1989, p. 33).

Neighborhood Decline

Vacant and deserted buildings can result in a self-gratifying prophecy for a neighborhood. The presence of such buildings in a neighborhood often discourages owners, who in many cases do not live in the neighborhood, from investing more in their buildings. As a result, the buildings in such neighborhoods are often neglected compromising their quality, thus increases the risks of fire from poorly maintained electrical and heating systems (Massey and Denton, 1993, p. 132). In extreme case, the owners of these buildings may resort to acts of arson to force the occupants out or to deceitfully collect an insurance policy. Such acts also contribute to more vacant or deserted houses in the neighborhood (Sternlieb and Burchell, 1973, p. 30).

Similarly, besides pulling out by the private investors in such neighborhoods, large institutions such as banks, mortgage financiers, and insurance companies can follow the trend. Countries which lack legislations barring these institutions have been reported to lawfully decline to underwrite mortgages or fire policy for people living in such neighborhood. This has made it hard for other owners who are willing to reinvest in their buildings since they have no access to capital. In addition, these owners are often discouraged from reinvesting in their buildings because, without access to capital, they are not likely to recover their investment in case they decide to sell their property (Massey and Denton, 1993, p. 135). Therefore, lack of access to credit facilities plays a significant role in the vacation and desertion of buildings and neighborhood decline in the deprived neighborhood. On the other hand, vacation and desertion increases the risks of fire hazard mostly by arsonists and careless homeless individuals or shelter seekers (Alison, 1989, p. 37).

Act of Arsonists

Arson is a major cause of fires and fire hazards in many urban areas. According to Federal Emergency Management Agency (1997) arson and cooking fires are the leading cause of dwelling fires in the cities, each accounting for 25 % of the fires. In the U.S. arson is ranked third among the leading causes of dwelling fires, accounting for only 15% of fires. In the 1995 arson accounted for a quarter of the dwelling fires deaths in the metropolitan areas. On the contrary, the number one cause of dwelling fires in the U.S during that time was careless smoking which accounted for approximately 25 percent of the deaths (Federal Emergency Management Agency, 1997, p. 8).

Fox and Billie Ann (1995, p. 754) emphasized on the relationship between arson and income levels of different neighborhoods. He established that among all the causes of fire he had studied, the relationship between arson and income was the most dramatic. He found out that incendiary or suspicious fires were more prevalent among the low income neighborhood. When he compared this prevalence rate with the high income neighborhood, the low income neighborhood had 14 times higher prevalence rate than the high income neighborhood (Fahy and Alison, 1989, p. 31).

Besides arson and abandoned buildings, the quality of the neighborhood can have impacts on fire safety in numerous ways. Since these neighborhoods normally experience higher rates of crime, households may seek to barricade their houses for safety reasons. This is usually accomplished by installing metallic grills on the doors and windows or by resorting to unorthodox means, for instance, use of furniture to block the passageways. In the event of a fire tragedy, such barricades normally make it very difficult for those inside the buildings to escape or salvage their properties, thus, increases the risk of fire-related injuries, deaths and loss of properties (Federal Emergency Management Agency, 1997, p. 11).

Socioeconomic Factors at the Level of the Household

Socioeconomic factors at the level of the household include the quality of individual housing units, affordability of these housing units, and the social structures of the households living in these housing units (Fahy and Alison, 1989, p. 32). In many countries the quality of housing and affordability goes hand in hand. The value of the housing unit is generally pegged on the quality of the unit given its location and social amenities among other factors. For that reason, only high income households can afford to live in those housing units as opposed to the lower income households (Federal Emergency Management Agency, 1997, p. 13). Housing Units and affordability are discussed separately to explore their distinctive relationship with levels of income and dwelling fire risks.

Housing Quality

Income is the fundamental determinant of the housing quality for many households. In many cities, low income households usually live in the aged and most dilapidated section of the city’s housing stock (Fahy and Alison, 1989, p. 33). The conditions of buildings built in four to five decades ago in most cities have deteriorated with time. The increased gap between the rich and the poor in developing and developed economies means more people will turn to these housing units for economic reasons (Fox and Billie Ann, 1995, p. 756). The old and poorly maintained housing units increase the risk of fire hazards for various reasons. First, the electrical and heating systems in these buildings are either aged or in very poor condition and this increases the risks of mechanical malfunction and probability of fire (Fahy and Alison, 1989, p. 33).

Secondly, the electrical system of the old housing units poses a high risk of dwelling fire. This is because they were not designed to accommodate the electrical load of the contemporary gadgets and appliances, for instance, stereo systems, washing machines, microwave ovens among others. Excessive loads posed by these gadgets and appliances can result to an electrical fire. Correspondingly, occupants of these buildings may attempt to offset the inadequacy of the electrical systems of these buildings by running extension cords and straining the available electrical outlet, thus causing socket or circuit overloads which can set off an electric fire (Shaenman, et al., 1987, p. 7).

Thirdly, the risk of fire can be increased by households who attempt to compensate for insufficient heating system through stop-gap measures, for instance, space heaters. Space heaters and other forms of heating devices enhance risk of fire in various ways. When these devices are old or poorly maintained they can ignite fire. In addition, incorrect use of these devices, for example near inflammable materials, poor ventilation or by young children also increases the risk of fire (Sternlieb and Burchell, 1973, P. 30).

A noteworthy exception to the relationship between income level and fire hazards and poorly maintained old housing stocks arises in a case where the household receives housing assistance from the state. For instance, In the U.S. the old public houses better known as ‘projects are well maintained than most of the privately owned apartment buildings affordable to the households with low income. Therefore, these housing units are less prone to resident fires resulting from malfunctioning heating and electrical systems. In addition, households that receive rental subsidies and vouchers have low exposure to fire risks since they are able to keep their houses in good conditions (Fox and Billie Ann, 1995, p. 759).

The quality of the furnishings just as the quality of the housing unit also can affect the risk of resident fire. Nowadays consumer products including the home furnishings have been improved for fire safety. For instance, the materials used to manufacture mattresses and upholsteries are extra resistant to fire than those used before. Regrettably, household with higher incomes are most likely to afford such products and therefore low income households are still susceptible to fire related risks since they can not afford these products (Shaenman et al., 1987, p. 8).

Smoke detectors

Smoke detectors have a played a major role in reducing the number of fire deaths. In the past three decades, the U.S has experienced a decrease in the number of dwelling fire deaths by nearly 40 percent (National Fire Protection Association, 1996, p. 15). This is partly attributed to the smoke detectors installed in residential and commercial buildings. Smoke detectors are very effective in saving lives since they alerts occupants of the building early enough before the fire become catastrophic. In addition, high proportion of deadly fires happens during the night hence the need for fire alert systems (Smith, 1994, P. 1).

According to the report released by the Federal Emergency Management Agency in 1997 only 19 percent of fire deaths took place in buildings with operational smoke detectors. On the other hand, over 65 percent of the dwelling fires took place in households lacking operational smoke detectors. This can lead us to two conclusions: either households living in houses with operational smoke detectors are more concious of their safety, or the gadget themselves enables the occupants to detect and put out the fire quick enough before speading.

Nevertheless, the relationship between income level and presence of operational smoke detectors has not been confirmed. However, there is a probability that households with low incomes have operational smoke detectors. This is attributed to numerous reasons scores of which have been discussed above (Harvard University Joint Centre for Housing Studies, 1996, p. 3). Many of the houses built in the mid 80s to date have operational smoke detectors; however this number drops as we wind back the history lane and therefore many old housing units have no operational smoke detectors. In addition, these old and substandard housing units which are home to low income households are not maintained to building standards or lack operational smoke detectors since their occupants can not afford them (Smith, 1994, P. 3).

Housing Affordability

Affordability of housing is another important factor that impacts on household fire risk. According to Fox and Billie Ann (1995) households are considered poor if they can only manage to pay their rents and cannot meet other basic necessities. According to the report submitted by Federal Emergency Management Agency (1997) almost a quarter of the American populatiuon face severe rent burdens, meaning more than half of their income is spent in meeting housing costs. With more than 50 precent of their income going to paying rents anf other household expenses, they are left with limited funds to meet other basic necessities.

Housing affordability also referred to as shelter poverty impacts household fire risks in numerous ways. The most significant of all is lack of sufficient disposable income; this means that the household cannot afford to purchase or invest in fire protection equipments and devices, for instance, smoke detectors and fire extinguishers (Smith, 1994, P. 3). Shelter poverty also compromises a household fire safety especially when they cannot afford to pay for their utility bills. When a household is not able to meet these bills there is a high probability that they may resort to less fire safety devices as a substitute. For instance, if the household uses electricity to heat and the electricity is cut off, they may turn to firewood or other cheaper methods to keep warm. The cheaper methods compared to the electric heating system pose greater fire risk (Stone, 1993, p. 34).

In extreme cases shelter poverty for some households can result in a crisis. More and more families are finding themselves homeless because of lack of affordable housing. Recent reports by the U.S Conference of mayors established that up to 30 percent of the homeless constitute of families. These families have resorted to seeking shelter in vacant buildings and vehicles after being left homeless. This poses the danger of dwelling fires especially during the cold weather as they struggle to keep warm. Homelessness has also resulted to hopelessness among these families and therefore, many of their members have turned to drug abuse as a remedy for their suffering. Drug addiction and excessive consumption of alcohol reduces mental/reasoning capacity, hence these people are very likely to make irrational decisions that increases risks of fire (Harvard University Joint Centre for Housing Studies, 1996, p. 4).

Household Structure

Besides physical and economic conditions mentioned above, social aspects associated with household structure also have major impacts on residential fires. Household structure in the study of residential fires in many cases includes presence of single parent households usually headed by females, children presence and crowded household. The significance of single parent household for residential fire risks is linked to children presence and therefore the two subjects are discussed together (Stone, 1993, p. 34).

Single Parent Household and children presence

Single parent household plays a significant part in increased risks of residential fire in several ways. Most important, single parent households are more likely to be poor in comparison to families with two parents. This is because only one parent provides for the whole family without any support from other sources. Therefore, single parent household are more prone to residential fire risks for the similar reasons as low income households. Additionally, single parent households normally have less flexibility to tackle household and child care obligation and challenges (Federal Emergency Management Agency, 1997, p. 19). According to Kraizer (1990, p. 575) children in urban areas are more likely to be neglected than those in rural areas or suburban areas. Most of these parents abandon their children because they have no other options. In such cases, these parents normally make arrangement with their neighbors to look after their children in their absence or in emergency cases.

However, according to Fahy (1993, p. 55) children are abandoned at home by their parents for a number of reasons. The reasons given by Fahy encompass both single and two parent households. Thy include parents going out for quick errands, parents going out to socialize, parents held up at work when the childcare backfires, parents being out on extended errands, baby sitters leaving before the parents return, or the baby sitter abandoning their duties for their own reasons. Residential fire risks associated with abandoning children on their own at home also extend to parents or adults who are available but do not pay close attention to children activities (Kraizer, 1990, p. 579).

In all the cases, fire risks caused by children is as a result of their curiosity and tendency to play with fire, lighters or other materials that are fire related. Children being so inexperienced are not able to comprehend the atrociousness of their lackadaisical activities involving fire. According to the data released by the National Fire Protection Association (1996) among all the infernos that that claimed children’s lives, approximately 40 percent were caused by children themselves while playing. Another way in which children can cause residential fire is cooking without supervision. The risk of fire caused by children’s lackadaisical activities involving fire is even higher in households which lack operational smoke detectors. In such circumstances, adults present in other parts or sections of the building may not detect fire at the early stages and this may be worse when the adult is asleep (Kraizer, 1990, p. 581).

Fahy (1993, p. 57) demonstrated how children fires are more common in low income neighborhoods than the rest of the neighborhoods. He established that children in the poor neighborhood had a high tendency of playing with fire than those in the rich neighborhood. He argued that many low income households are not able to afford or access quality and reliable childcare and therefore their children are often left on their own, thus, increasing the children play fire risk. Single parent household is even worse since only one adult is responsible for taking care of the children. In the U.S. there are several programs at the local, state and federal levels aimed at providing poor families with income support. However, given the gravity of the fire problems, enough focus should be paid to the accessibility and affordability of quality childcare and after school programs. Without such forms of assistance parents may be forced to abandon their children at home, particularly children returning home from school (Kraizer, 1990, p. 583).

Despite the fact that low income households and single parent households face a high risk of residential fire resulting from unsupervised children, no household is immune to this problem. Fahy (1993, p. 58) asserted that there are more significant factors than income levels in explaining fire incidences caused by children left at home or unsupervised. Kraizer (1990, p. 577) established that many parents, despite of their socioeconomic status, did not think of leaving their children alone or unattended to do quick errands. He also established that many parents misjudge their children’s ability to tackle ordinary situations, for instance, answering telephone calls or handling strangers. Therefore, failure by parents to recognize the dangers they expose their children to when they leave them alone at home or unsupervised also means their inability to recognize the increased fire risks these children are exposed to under such circumstances (Federal Emergency Management Agency, 1997, p. 23).

Fire Risks of Aged Persons

Over the recent past a high number of elderly persons have lost their lives in dwelling fires. According to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security out of the total number of the fire casualties, approximately 20 percent are always elderly people (Department of Homeland Security, 2006, p. 25). According to Kirschenbaum (2006, p. 113) elderly persons are more likely to succumb to fire injuries than any other age group. The probability of death due to fire injuries increases with age with those at the age of 85 and above having 250% risk of dying than the overall population.

The nature of risks the elderly persons are exposed to can be categorized into two: on one hand, they are exposed to high risk than the rest of the population, and on the other hand due to their physical and mental constraints they are less able to escape infernos (Jennings, 1996, p. 124). Elderly people are also at a high risk of residential fire since daily routines, particularly cooking, can be more hazardous especially when the person is mentally or physically incapacitated or his physical or mental abilities are in decline. Their situations are usually worsened by medications that makes them less attentive or for those who abuse drugs and alcohol (Kirschenbaum, 2006, p. 113). According to Lauer and Lauer (2006) low income elderly people are prone to residential fire risks than those in rich neighborhoods/households and are highly likely to succumb to the fire injuries.

Congested/ overcrowded Households

According to numerous research studies the relationship between fire rates and socioeconomic factors must include congestion or overcrowding as one of the variable. Even though overcrowding, which is normally described as excessive number of people living in a residential unit, is a common problem in low income neighborhood, it is not clear how it correlates with prevalent rates of fire (Jennings, 1996, p. 124). McEntire (2004, p. 25) posits that overcrowded dwelling units are more prone to wear and tear of the mechanical systems and this increases the risk of fire. He also suggests that overcrowding is a designator of poverty; however the poverty dimension is not accountable for in other variables.

Although its impact on fire prevalence rates is not well established, the effect of congestion on injuries and deaths resulting from fire is more apparent. One of the survival tactics used by low income households to tackle the problem of affordable housing is sharing a housing unit with extended families or friends. The increased number of people living in one roof means more potential victims of residential fire (Jennings, 1996, p. 125). In addition, large number of people living in a household is very difficult to rescue during an incident of fire. This is particularly true for households with very young and elderly persons who are not able to rescue themselves (McEntire, 2004, p. 26). Furthermore, households with no operational fire alarms or smoke detectors have minimal time to vacate since they are normally aware of the fire at a later stage and have limited ability to alert or rescue other members of the households (Palen, 2001, p. 5).

Socioeconomic Factors at the personal Level

Up to this far, the study has been focusing on the socio economic factors linked to increased risk of residential fire at the household and neighborhood level. The current section is the lowest level of our focus on socioeconomic factors associated to residential fire risks. Socioeconomic factors at the personal level include smoking carelessly, drug and alcohol incidence, levels of education, and the housing tenure category (Federal Emergency Management Agency, 1997, p. 25).

Careless Smoking and Drug and Alcohol Abuse

Careless smoking is the top most cause of fire injuries and deaths in the globe (Kirschenbaum, 2006, p. 120). According to McEntire (2004, p. 27) careless smoking accounts for a small number of residential fires in most cities but it is responsible for the highest number of fire injuries and deaths. Fox and Billie Ann (1995, p. 754) showed how careless smoking is inversely correlated to income, therefore low income households are questionably at a higher risk of residential fires resulting from careless cigarette smoking. Clark (1982, p. 12) established a considerable disparities in the rates of fires caused by careless smoking among different groups in a neighborhood. He found out that the rate of careless smoking fires among the lowest income group to be 8 times higher than those of the highest income group.

Drug and alcohol abuse is closely related to the subject of careless smoking. Individuals who are inebriated from drugs and alcohol have a high risk of falling asleep or having impaired judgments, and therefore are likely to improperly dispose or drop burning cigarettes on hazardous spots, for instance, near inflammable materials/products. The closeness of the sleeping individuals to the source of fire or inflammable materials/products makes it so fatal, especially when these individual are excessively intoxicated to recognize the looming danger or successfully rescue themselves (Palen, 2001, p. 23).

Lower Educational Levels

Goetz (1991) identified lower levels of education as causal factor to residential fire risks and suggested that those with low education have limited capacity to grasp the public fire safety education. Low education levels can also limit the ability of individuals to read instruction manuals and warning signs, thereby enhancing the risk of causing residential fires. In addition, literacy level is highly correlated with income levels in many countries. People with high education are more likely to land lucrative jobs and earn high income as opposed to those with lower education levels. More studies should be done to establish the significance of literacy level to increasing risk of residential fire in relations to other factors, for instance, income.

Fire Risk and Housing Tenure

Another significant socioeconomic variable associated with residential fire is housing tenure. Most studies have established that minimal rates of occupation by the owners that is common in the low income neighborhood are linked to increased rates of residential fires. However, the difficulty arises when specifying the nature of this relationship. Munson (1983) states that by virtue of an individual owning a home he/she is living in, it is highly likely that he/she would have tendency of maintaining his/her home, thus minimizing the probability of mechanically-caused residential fires. In addition, they would be careful with their daily routines, thereby minimizing the probability of cooking, careless smoking or other forms of residential fires that are caused by human recklessness. Owners will do everything to protect their equity investment and therefore will have more vested interests in buying and maintaining fire safety devices, for instance, smoke detectors (Kirschenbaum, 2006, p. 124).

Psychological Hitch and Residential Fire Risk

An additional significant area that needs to be studied further is how the arsonists’ activities are linked to psychological challenges associated with residing in a socioeconomically depressed neighborhood (Federal Emergency Management Agency, 1997, p. 28). According to Palen (2001) the higher rates of arson may be an expression of a complex and usually awesome challenges individuals are more likely to experience in such neighborhoods. Increased rates of incendiary and suspicious residential fire may be a confirmation of such problems. The rise may point out that escalating cases of incendiary and suspicious residential fire are targeted at individuals and not motivated by financial gains. Palen also suggested that the pressure of living in a poor neighborhood can results in high rates of children playing residential fires and those fires caused by juveniles.

Minimizing fire risks

Similar to other risk reduction approaches residential fires also requires a holistic approach. Risk is equal to the hazard (fire) and vulnerability of the people or community involved (McEntire, 2004, p. 24). Individuals and communities with adequate resources both economically and socially are highly likely to survive the effects of any form of disaster than the poor individuals or community. The most discreet way of dealing with residential fire risks is tackling the socioeconomic challenges starting from the community level, household level and finally at the individual level (Federal Emergency Management Agency, 1997, p. 3).

Individuals and organizations in charge of setting up fire risk reduction and contingency measures should start off by considering the nature and possibility of particular incidence of fire. They must consider the societal aspects at risk due to residential fire. The planners should have a complete knowledge of the particular vulnerabilities and capacities of the targeted population to assist them in effective decision making and designing appropriate fire risk reduction measures that takes considers their strengths and weaknesses (Lauer and Lauer, 2006, p. 54). The vulnerability, hazard and risk concepts are linked dynamically. Risk is a product of the hazard and vulnerability, therefore the greater the probability of the hazard and more vulnerable people are, the greater the risk. For that reason, human vulnerability is inversely correlated to the people’s capacity to endure or survive a risk hazard (Kirschenbaum, 2006, p. 135).

Therefore, the optimal way of reducing the fire risk is tackling the socioeconomic factors that increase residential fire risks. On other word, fire risk reduction measures must encompass poverty reduction, reducing congestion/overcrowding, increasing awareness and information, provision of basic education and the overall change in people’s lifestyle (McEntire, 2004, p. 25). This will not only minimize the vulnerability of the targeted population but also reduce the probability of the fire hazard. The reduction of fire risk can be categorized into societal measures, physical planning, economic measures, engineering and construction, and management and institutional measures (International Federation of Red Cross, 2000, P. 4).

Societal measures aims at safety culture in which all members of a community are made aware of the risks of fire and how to protect themselves and others. These measures include public education campaigns through the use of mass media and general education. According to Kirschenbaum (2006, p. 125), residential fire risk awareness and isolation plans which isolates people are less likely to succeed. Therefore, programs aiming at reducing fire risks must be linked to the needs of the community, for instance, water scarcity among others. The objective societal measure is to develop an awareness of the fire risk that can enable people to take conscious precautions. The awareness must include actions to be taken to avert fire incidence, for instance, where to locate play area, cooking stoves, book case, and quality of construction among others (International Federation of Red Cross, 2000, P. 8).

Societal measures also encompasses community involvement in residential fire risk reduction processes through public meetings and sessions, public investigations, public disclosure of the decisions made during these meetings and inquiries, and take part in designing fire risk and capacity maps (International Federation of Red Cross, 2000, P. 11). Public awareness can be achieved through habitual practices drills, examinations and anniversaries, and emergencies practice. In public institutions and businesses, there should also be regular rehearsals on what people should do in case of an inferno or other hazards. This will assist in reinforcing the awareness and developing automatic response behavior (Maranghides, 2007, p. 15).

Physical planning includes careful location of the new facilities and residential houses. This helps in de-concentrating elements that are at risk and reducing vulnerability. Physical planning also involves planning of the infrastructure, for instance, road networks in a neighborhood which facilitates easier access in case of a fire incidence (Munson, 1983, p. 193). Physical planning also applies to population density. Highly congested areas or neighborhood or household is more prone to residential fire risks and therefore, efforts must be made to decongest these areas by relocating people or building more affordable houses. Improved infrastructure in the low income neighborhood may attract the home owners and provide the socioeconomic solution to the problem of housing tenure (Federal Emergency Management Agency, 1997, p. 4).

Economic measures are linked to low income and poverty. Low income both at the neighborhood, household and individual levels have all been associated to increasing rate of residential fire. At the neighborhood level it is linked to declining neighborhood, abandoned buildings and act of arson which are common in poor neighborhood (Sternlieb and Burchell, 1973, p. 30). Just like in the U.S and many developed economies other countries including Saudi Arabia should embark on social welfare programs that would cushion the poor against the challenge of affordable houses. This can either be achieved through the provision of cheaper houses or financial aids in form of employment compensation or other income support programs. This will solve the problem of homeless/shelter seeking households who contributes a lot to the increase in residential fire. The financial aid will also help in improving the quality of housing including the mechanical and electrical systems and installation of operational smoke detectors (National Fire Protection Association, 1996, p. 11).

The government should acquire or demolish abandoned buildings because they not only increase residential fire risk but also insecurity in the neighborhood. Majority of the homeless individuals seeking shelter in the abandoned buildings are either drug addicts or criminals and pose a great danger to the residents (Shaenman, et al., 1987, p. 8). Countries should enact legislations barring redlining. Financial institutions have been reported to lawfully decline to underwrite mortgages or fire policy for people living in such neighborhood. This has made it hard for other owners who are willing to reinvest in their buildings since they have no access to capital. Such legislations will encourage the owner to reinvest in their buildings because, with more access to capital, they are likely to recover their investment in case they decide to sell their property (Massey and Denton, 1993, p. 135). Reinvestment in the old and abandoned buildings will ensure that they meet the current building code/requirements and this will help to minimize fire risks (Sternlieb and Burchell, 1973, p. 32).

Improved legislations should be introduced to curb the problem of careless smoking and drug and alcohol which has claimed very many lives than any other risk factor. The legislations should include designated smoking zones and strong penalties on drug peddlers among other measures (Alison, 1989, p. 33). The increased fire risks caused by the elderly persons can be reduced by providing personnel assistance or relocating them to the care centers for the aged where they can be taken care off (Kirschenbaum, 2006, p. 1130). Lastly, managerial and institutional measures are very significant given the fact that building disaster protection take considerably long period of time. Disaster protection must be supported by other programs including education, training and institutional building to offer expert knowledge and competence on the subject of fire (International Federation of Red Cross, 2000, P. 21).

Conclusion

Fire risk assessment is a process that entails scrutinizing and evaluating the various conditions that expose the community to be susceptible to fire hazards. With this regard, it is imperative to conduct an analysis relating to the chances of the fire risk taking place and the potential consequences that are associated with the risk. The term ‘Risk’ in the context of this study can be taken to mean the outcome of uncertainty on intentions. Uncertainties refer to events which have a possibility of occurring or not occurring, and these uncertainties exist as a result of limited information available or vagueness of the available information (Stone, 1993, p. 34; Smith, 1994, P. 3).

The probability level of fire risk is usually calculated with regard to the number of fire incidents experienced in the past. In order to estimate the probability level, it is important to have information or data relating to past fire occurrences. When estimating the level of risk probability, it is essential to use the rate of the incidents occurring as a guide. This rate varies from one community to another; hence, the study focuses on Saudi Arabia as the case study. The consequence level refers to the possible damages, losses or harmful repercussions that are connected with the occurrence of the event (Sternlieb and Burchell, 1973, P. 30). Consequence levels are computed after making proficient judgments and analyzing the past incidences. When the probability levels and the consequence levels of the fire risk are allocated to the extreme effects of the risks associated to fire, then an overall level of risk is achieved (McEntire, 2004, p. 25); this can be analyzed through the utilization of the Risk Analysis Matrix tool. One benefit of the Risk Analysis Matrix tool is that it makes it possible for the categorization and ordering of the circumstances that necessitate the occurrence of the risks.

Socioeconomic factors are among the topmost predictors of residential fire risks at a community level. However, the relationship of socioeconomic factors and residential fire rates is even stronger at the household level (Federal Emergency Management Agency, 1997, p. 6). Even though the structural elements of a building and infrastructure significantly impact on the residential fire rates, of greater significance are the many ways in which human activities directly or indirectly affect residential fire risks (Clark, 1982, p. 12). The study has explored at length ways in which varying socioeconomic conditions of humans occupying a building or a neighborhood significantly affects residential fire rates.

Careless smoking, incendiary or suspicious acts, cooking and children playing accounts for the majority of the residential fires. Addition of heating causes increases to the proportion of fire risk to over three quarters. Since most of the residential fires are caused by human activities, public awareness and education represents the most significant path for minimizing the severity and incidence of residential fires.

Almost all the literatures on socioeconomic factors of dwelling fires shows the direct and direct correlation between lower income levels and increased rate of residential fire (Kirschenbaum, 2006, p. 111; McEntire, 2004, p. 22; (Federal Emergency Management Agency, 1997, p. 3). These studies established considerable variations in residential fire rates in different neighborhoods, households and individuals. Low income levels affect the capacity of individuals to purchase the fire protection devices and to afford quality housing. Many buildings in the lower income neighborhood lack operational smoke detectors and have faulty mechanical and electrical system. This puts households and individuals living in these areas at a higher risk of residential fire. In addition, income levels also influences the quality of child care (Federal Emergency Management Agency, 1997, p. 15).

Parents living with low income are usually unable to provide their children with quality healthcare, and as a result they do abandon or leave their children on their own while away on errands. Consequently, this increases the risk of children playing fire. In many cases these parents have no other choice but to leave their children on their own. These parents normally make arrangement with their neighbors to look after their children in their absence or in emergency cases (Kraizer, 1990, p. 579).

Single parent households are also highly correlated with low income households. This is because there is only one parent who provides for the family and in many cases does no get any support from elsewhere (Kraizer, 1990, p. 579). Overcrowding is also attributed to low income level and poverty. It is one of the survival tactics used by low income households to tackle the problem of affordable housing is sharing a housing unit with extended families or friends. The increased number of people living in one roof means more potential victims of residential fire. Income level is also correlated with the quality of housing, literacy level and housing affordability which are among the factors that influence residential fire risks (McEntire, 2004, p. 25). In a nutshell, all the socioeconomic factors affecting the rate of residential fire are virtually linked to income levels from the community to the individual level.

The study of various residential fire risks for various socioeconomic clusters is a significant direction for planning and targeting community education and outreach programs for residential fire-safety (International Federation of Red Cross, 2000, P. 4). For instance, communal campaigns targeting middle income individual and households should emphasize on the significance of maintaining operational smoke detectors or fire alarms in their premises. On the contrary, residential fire risk reduction efforts in the low income areas must recognize the fact that households living in these areas are less likely to purchase or install fire protection devices because of their restricted budget. In addition, the socioeconomic stress associated with their lives also means that they are less likely to prioritize fire safety measures (Clark, 1982, p. 12; Stone, 1993, p. 34; Smith, 1994, P. 3). Therefore, the campaign programmers should consider the above elements when designing and implementing their strategies.

In the same way, to reduce the rate of children playing fire, middle income neighborhoods should be educated about the risks of abandoning children or leaving them on their own, even for a short period of time. Such kind of strategies are not likely to work with low income groups who may abandon their children or leave them unattended to because they have no other child care options (Kraizer, 1990, p. 590). The two scenarios illustrates that residential fire prevention measures must take into consideration the sensitive needs and concerns of various socioeconomic groups, as shown by disparity in fire rates, diverse spread of fire causes, and the existence of distinctive fire risk factors in different neighborhood. However, the main challenge for policy makers and implementers is language barrier and a wide array of literacy level (Department of Homeland Security, 2006, p. 32).

Similar to other risk reduction approaches, to reduce risks of residential fire requires a holistic approach. Risk is equal to the hazard (fire) and vulnerability of the people or community involved (McEntire, 2004, p. 24). Individuals and communities with adequate resources both economically and socially are highly likely to survive the effects of any form of disaster than the poor individuals or community. The most discreet way of dealing with residential fire risks is tackling the socioeconomic challenges starting from the community level, household level and finally at the individual level. Residential fire risk reduction measures must encompass poverty reduction, reducing congestion/overcrowding, increasing awareness and information, provision of basic education and the overall change in people’s lifestyle (McEntire, 2004, p. 25). This will not only minimize the vulnerability of the targeted population but also reduce the probability of the fire hazard. The reduction of fire risk can be categorized into societal measures, physical planning, economic measures, engineering and construction, and management and institutional measures (International Federation of Red Cross, 2000, P. 4).

Nevertheless, additional research on socioeconomic factors related to increased residential fire rates needs to be carried out since most of the available literatures are more than two decades old. The relationships predicted in these literatures need to be replicated, First, to test the resilience of those relationships and to assess any changes that may have take place over time. These forms of studies are significant for the policy makers and the society at large in averting increase in the cases of residential fire rates.

Reserrch Metodology

Introduction

Methodology is the process of instructing the ways to do the research. It is, therefore, convenient for conducting the research and for analyzing the research questions (Snell and Dean, 1992, p.480). The process of methodology insists that much care should be given to the kinds and nature of procedures to be adhered to in accomplishing a given set of procedures or an objective. Methodology gives a description of distinct methods or procedures that are to be used in analyzing the data. These methods or procedures stand for a creative generic structure; thus, their order may be rearranged, or they may be combined or broken down in sub-processes. With this regard, research methodology can entail elaboration of the generic processes and procedures; as well, research methodology can be elaborated through figurative means and can be adjusted to eliminate obscurity in the school of thought with tenacious conceptions or doctrines as they associate to a specific field or discipline of inquiry especially if the philosophical and/or principle of the presumptions that signify a specific methodology or a specific study is known as reasoning methodology. A section on the methodology in academic research of the researchers will always be generally de rigueur.

This section contains the research strategy, logic and conceptual system, research process, research methodology, quantitative and qualitative approach, instruments to be used, questionnaire survey, questionnaire survey pilot testing, validity and reliability, survey sample framework, questionnaire administration, respondents and unit of analysis, non-response bias, interviews and case study approach.

The research strategy

First, with regard to the qualitative research, areas of study were chosen with determination, paying attention to whether the areas of study are in line with the features that have been predetermined (Creech, 1995, p.33). Next, the part played by the researchers was to obtain a higher critical care (Creech, 1995, p.33). This is mainly done in qualitative research due to the fact that there is every chance of the researcher assuming a transcendental or a ‘neutral’ position. Thus, this appears to be more elusive both in philosophical and/or practical terms. It is for this reason that the qualitative researchers are frequently pressed to mirror on their part in the research procedures and make things obvious in their research analyses.

Consequently, a wide variety of forms can be taken by qualitative data analysis; the forms range within quantitative research in its coverage on meaning, signs, and language. Moreover, qualitative research procedures evaluate contextually and holistically, instead of being isolationist and reductionist. Nevertheless, transparent and systematic methods to analysis are ever considered as crucial for cogency. For instance, majority of qualitative processes need researchers to methodologically script data and to know and record themes reliably and consistently (Bryman and Bell, 2003, p.217).

It is the qualitative procedures that are used for explaining puzzling quantitative results or for exploration (i.e. hypothesis-generating). However, the most customary division between the employment of quantitative and qualitative research particularly in the social sciences is that quantitative methods are employed to evaluate the main hypotheses. This is so to establish content correctness and to evaluate measures that the researcher believes he/she should evaluate. This is regarded as one of the striking benefits of qualitative research. Some researchers have the view that quantitative research methods provide many samples and have accurate and steadfast procedures by generating relevant hypotheses and statistical tools that can be applied in the field of mathematics. On the contrary, qualitative data is normally arduous to display or graph in mathematical terms.

In the case of program and policy evaluation research, qualitative research is often employed since it can find solution to some significant questions more effectively and efficiently than quantitative processes (Bryman and Bell, 2003, p.216). This is mainly the case for comprehending why and how some results were accomplished (not just what was accomplished) and also for finding the solutions to significant questions about pertinence, non-planned impacts and effects of programs such as: were anticipations sensible?; did procedures function as anticipated?; were major players able to accomplish their responsibilities?; did the plans create any unwanted impacts?; and so on. Qualitative overtures have the benefit of permitting for more multifariousness with regard to the replies and the capability to fit into new happenings or matters particularly during the research process itself. An outstanding element of qualitative research is that it can be time-consuming and expensive to carry-out, many provinces of research use qualitative procedures that have been chiefly planned to offer more cost-efficient, succinct and timely outcomes (Bryman and Bell, 2003, p.214).

Logic and conceptual system development

For this part, choosing a logic and conceptual system of the research design is a choice between the positivist and the social constructionist (Easterby, 2008, p.147). The positivist view shows that social worlds exist externally, and its properties are supposed to be measured objectively, rather than being inferred subjectively through feelings, intuition, or reflection. The basic beliefs for the positivist view are that the observer is independent, and science is free of value. The researchers should concentrate on facts, look for causality and basic laws, reduce phenomenon to simplest elements, and form hypotheses and test them. Preferred methods for positivism consist of making concepts operational and taking large samples. While on the other hand, social constructionists hold the view that reality is subjective and it is socially constructed and given meaning by people. It is best explored through a clear focus on the ways that people make sense of the world via language. The basic beliefs for the social constructionists are that the observer is part of what is observed and science is driven by human interest.

The researchers should concentrate on meaning, look for understanding for what really happened and develop ideas with regard to the data. Preferred methods for the social constructionists include using different approaches to establish different views of phenomenon and small samples evaluated in depth or over time (Saunders, 2009, p.322). For the case of how to identify and experiment the risk factors behind dwelling fires in Saudi Arabia, the philosophy of the social constructionists would be used for carrying out the research because it tends to produce qualitative data, and the data are subjective since the gathering process would also be subjective due to the involvement of the researcher.

Research Process

For the research process, the choices of the two processes: deductive and inductive processes can be used for carrying out the research (Easterby, 2008, p.203). A deductive approach is described as a study in which the theory is tested by the empirical observation, and is referred to as moving from the general to the specific. Deductive research establishes a theory and then checks on the data; it uses quantitative data and it is a very structured approach. On the other hand, inductive approach is a study in which the theory is developed from observation of reality and is the opposite of deductive research; it moves from the specific observations to the general statements. Inductive approach does not start with the theory, and is very flexible using qualitative data (Saunders, 2009, p.231). This study mainly used the inductive process for the case of how to identify and examine the risk factors and incidences behind dwelling fires in Saudi Arabia because the theory is developed from the observations of the reality, and during the process, there are qualitative data that are used for data analysis.

In some cases, a mixture of both the qualitative approach and the quantitative approach of data analyses can be used. Robson (2002) distinguished between qualitative and quantitative research methods. He asserted that quantitative research methods were originally developed in the natural sciences to study natural phenomena. In the social sciences, qualitative research methods were formulated to facilitate research associates to learn cultural and social developments. By using quantitative approach, the researcher would need to collect a volume of data and analyze the relationship of the data, and then the data would be manipulated into trends or patterns. Next, the researcher would use standardized approaches that structure the data before it is analyzed. Examples of quantitative approaches include: experiments, surveys, formal methods and numerical methods. By using qualitative approach, the researcher would collect more in-depth data and aim to explore understanding, meaning and experience. The data is the feelings and views for qualitative approach and not integrated in the opinion poll. Besides, it is difficult to analyze by standardized methods. Case study research, action research and ethnography are some illustrations of qualitative methods (Easterby, 2008, p.215)

Qualitative research is a way in which research questions are captured in various academic fields of study, conventionally used in the social sciences, but also in research on market and other areas (Snell and Dean, 1992, p.480). Exhaustive apprehensions of human demeanor with regard to qualitative researchers are being carried out with an aim to assess the causes that relate to such demeanor. The qualitative method investigates the question as to how and why decision making is carried out; hence, focused and smaller samples are more frequently preferred to huge samples (Skinner, 1953, p.306). On the particular cases studied, qualitative methods produced only information and any more general findings were only conjectures (guesses on informative). Quantitative methods on the other hand verified the validity and truthfulness of the hypotheses (Romzek, 1989, p.655). Creech (1995) further asserts that qualitative methods can be explained as a source of data or an explanation based on the dimensions of the graph or a non-mathematical data collection.

Greater critical attention is being paid to the researcher’s role. This is as important as in qualitative research; the hypothesis of the researcher adopting a transcendental position or a neutral position is visualized as more debatable in philosophical and/or practical terms. Hence, qualitative investigators are frequently pressed to mirror on their part in the research procedure and make this obvious in the evaluation. Consequently, in its focus on signs, meaning and language, qualitative data analysis differs from quantitative analysis as it takes a wide miscellany of forms. Rather than being reductionist and isolationist, qualitative research approaches evaluate more dependently and holistically. Nonetheless, transparent and systematic ways of evaluation are normally considered as vital for rigor; for instance, majority of qualitative processes need researchers to cautiously code information and learn and record these themes reliably and consistently.

Nonetheless, the most customary demarcation between the uses of quantitative and qualitative research especially in the social sciences is that qualitative procedures are employed for illustrating confounding quantitative outcomes or for exploration (i.e., conjecture-engendering). On the contrary, quantitative methods are being employed to evaluate theories. This has been demonstrated as one of the fundamentals of qualitative research. Some critics think that quantitative method of analysis purposes to offer many illustrations, precise and reliable evaluation mainly through centered conjectures, applied mathematics and evaluation tools. On the other hand, qualitative data is normally tedious to display or graph in mathematical terms (Bryman and Bell, 2003, p.217). For program research and policy evaluation, qualitative research is frequently employed as it can offer solutions to some significant questions more effectively and efficiently as opposed to quantitative approaches. This is especially the case for comprehending why and how some results were accomplished (not just what was accomplished) and also for replying some significant queries about pertinence, unplanned effects and impact of processes such as: were anticipations justifiable?; did procedures function as anticipated?; were chief policy makers able to do their jobs?; did the program create any unintended impacts?; and so on.

During the research process, qualitative approaches have the benefit of permitting for more multifariousness in the capacity to adapt to new developments as well as in responses of research itself (Bryman and Bell, 2003, p.215). Qualitative research takes a lot of time to conduct besides being much expensive. In various kinds of research, more cost effective methods of qualitative research have been designed; this has helped to solve the problem of high costs and the speed of conducting the research. It is important that the research should be conducted timely, paying much attention to the limited resources in relation to the cost (Bryman and Bell, 2003, p.214). In collecting the data, qualitative researchers may employ varied overtures, like narratology, classical ethnography, grounded theory practice, shadowing, or storytelling. In other methodological approaches, qualitative procedures are also generically present, like actor-network theory or action research. Contours of the data gathered can include group discussions and interviews, reflection field notes and observation, various pictures, texts, and other forms (Bryman and Bell, 2003, p.217).

Research Methodology

Methodology gives a description of distinct methods or procedures that are to be used in analyzing the data. These methods or procedures stand for a creative generic structure; thus, their order may be rearranged, or they may be combined or broken down in sub-processes. With this regard, research methodology can entail elaboration of the generic processes and procedures; as well, research methodology can be elaborated through figurative means and can be adjusted to eliminate obscurity in the school of thought with tenacious conceptions or doctrines as they associate to a specific field or discipline of inquiry especially if the philosophical and/or principle of the presumptions that signify a specific methodology or a specific study is known as reasoning methodology.

Quantitative and Qualitative Approach

Quantitative approach

Quantitative research approach refers to the use of statistical techniques, mathematical techniques and calculation techniques to empirically analyze data (Bryman and Bell, 2003, p.217). Quantitative methodology aims at utilizing mathematical and statistical theories and models to analyze the data. Quantitative methodology validates the hypotheses and conclusions that have been drawn from qualitative methodology (Carter, 2009, p.239). The scientific procedures and processes that are utilized in quantitative methodology encompass: deriving models and theories; designing instruments for data gathering; controlling the variables empirically; and analyzing data through use of models.

Quantitative methodology is relevant for categorizing the observations or variables, examining the variables and generating statistical representations to analyze the observations (Snell and Dean, 1992, p.480). A researcher who utilizes quantitative research design has a predetermined knowledge of what to expect. In addition, the researcher employs data collection instruments like questionnaires or other relevant data collection equipments (Bryman and Bell, 2003, p.216). The kind of data handled through quantitative methodology is mainly in numerical or statistical format. A strong feature of quantitative methodology is that it is the most efficient design to test hypotheses. Its limitation is that the relevant details of the variables or observations may be overlooked (Robson, 2002, p.212)

Qualitative approach

Qualitative approach is mostly concerned with the human motives and the reasons behind such motives (Snell and Dean, 1992, p.482). The main questions that come with qualitative approach are ‘why?’ and ‘how?’, in addition to ‘what?’, ‘where?’ and ‘when?’. With regard to this, a researcher utilizing the qualitative approach will tend to use smaller samples rather than larger samples (Carter, 2009, p.239). Qualitative approach strictly generates only information that applies to the designated case study; any additional information is treated as guesses. Once hypotheses are drawn through qualitative approach, they are tested through quantitative approach (Robson, 2002, p.212).

Qualitative approach gives a full detail in terms of the description of the research process. Unlike quantitative research, the researcher has no idea of what results to expect. The researcher mainly relies on observations to collect data. One limitation of qualitative approach is that it consumes a lot of time and demands many resources in terms of money and expertise (Bryman and Bell, 2003, p.219).

Questionnaire Survey

Questionnaires are pre-formulated set of questions which require the respondents to record their answers usually within closely defined alternatives (Carter, 2009, p.239). Questionnaires can be administered to the respondents either by mail or personally by the researcher. Before designing a questionnaire, there are three principles to pay attention to, these principles include: principles of wording, principles of measurement and the general set up of the questionnaire.

The principle of wording entails:

  1. the content and purpose of the questions, i.e. the researcher needs to understand the nature of variables to be tapped; if a variable is subjective such as satisfaction where a respondent’s beliefs, perceptions, and attitudes are to be measured, the questions should tap the dimensions and elements of the concepts. In addition, where objective variables such as age and income are tapped, a single direct question would be appropriate (Robson, 2002, p.216).
  2. wording and language, i.e. language of the questionnaire should approximate the level of understanding of respondents. Consequently, the choice of words should depend on the level of education of the respondents (Bryman and Bell, 2003, p.219).
  3. type and form of question, i.e. type relates to whether question will be open ended or closed whereas form relates to positively and negatively worded questions [1 -5 with 1 being the lowest] versus [1-5 with 1 being the highest] (Robson, 2002, p.216).
  4. sequencing of questions, i.e. the questions should be structured in a way that they start from general questions to specific questions or from easy to difficult questions (Carter, 2009, p.239).

The principle of measurement encompasses the principles to be followed to ensure that the data collected are appropriate to test the hypotheses. These principles include: categorization, which entails the adjustment of negative questions to become positive questions; coding; using scales and scaling techniques; and reliability and validity: reliability indicates how stably and consistently the instrument taps the variable

While validity establishes how well a technique, instrument, or process measures a particular concept (Robson, 2002, p.214).

The general set up of the questionnaire encompasses; introduction to respondents, length of questionnaire, instructions for completion and the overall appearance of the questionnaire (Bryman and Bell, 2003, p.217). In this research, questionnaires were used to collect the data. The questionnaires were issued to 200 respondents who were mainly household residents. The participants’ responses were treated with much confidentiality. A sample of the questionnaire is attached in Appendix 1.

Questionnaire Survey Pilot Testing

Questionnaire pilot testing is a process that entails carrying out a first round test of the instruments for data collection with the aim of making out errors and getting rid of them (Robson, 2002, p.214). This process is normally undertaken before taking the step to collect data from the entire population. Pilot testing encompasses giving out a sample of the questionnaires to a small group that has the same features as the same features as those of the intended population. In addition, the sample questionnaires should be given out in a manner that replicates how the real data collection process will happen (Bryman and Bell, 2003, p.219).

The main aim of questionnaire survey pilot testing is to make amends to the instruments of data collection or the specified methods of collecting data; this will ensure that the questionnaires are structured in a relevant manner and also proper methods of data collection are employed. Without pilot testing, the researcher risks collecting worthless data which are ineffective in the research process (Carter, 2009, p.239). The common problems that may be detected during the pilot testing stage include: tough questions that the respondents can’t easily understand, irritating questions that make the respondents uncomfortable, questions which have more than one interpretation and questions that address many issues at the same time (Robson, 2002, p.214). One other aim of pilot testing is that it enables the researcher to formulate advanced methods of giving out the data collection instruments; for instance, if the researcher notices that the respondent has a weakness in filling out the questionnaires, then it is upon the researcher to find out ways of summarizing the questions in the data collection instruments (Carter, 2009, p.239).

In this research, during questionnaire pilot testing about 5 respondents will be selected a sample to represent the target population. These respondents will be required to fill out the questionnaires in a similar condition that imitates the actual research; in addition, the questionnaires will be administered in a similar way as they will be administered in the actual research. Much attention will be paid to the length of time taken to fill out the questionnaire and the method of administration; for instance, if the interview is supposed to be conducted over the phone, then the pilot testing should be done through the phone. In the same way, if the survey is supposed to be carried out via mail, the pilot testing should be conducted through use of mails. The time taken to fill out the questionnaires is very crucial as it will help in planning and budgeting.

After the respondents have all filled out the questionnaires, the researcher should probe them further on their experience. The possible questions to ask the respondents include: whether the respondents were comfortable with the length of time they took to fill out the questionnaires, the respondents’ opinions regarding the design of the questionnaires, whether the respondents understood the context of the questionnaires, whether the respondents faced any difficulty in filling out the questionnaires, whether the questions irritated the respondents and whether the questions were direct and specific. After carrying out all this process, it is upon the researcher to review the questionnaires and conduct a data analysis and interpret the results so as to check whether the results are in line with what the researcher had initially postulated. It is at this point that the researcher makes the decision regarding whether to change the content and the administration of the instruments.

Validity and Reliability

Validity refers to whether an instrument actually measures what it is supposed to measure, given the context in which it is applied. Reliability is concerned with consistence of measures. The level of an instruments’ reliability is dependent on its ability to produce the same results when used repeatedly. To achieve validity and reliability, the data was checked for coding errors and omissions while coding into excel sheets. The database was also verified for accuracy and completeness of all the entries to ensure reliability of data is achieved.

Validity of the data represents the data integrity and it connotes that the data is accurate and much consistent. Validity has been explained as a descriptive evaluation of the association between actions and interpretations and empirical evidence deduced from the data (Robson, 2002, p.214). The canyon of validity is applicable to all guises of evaluation (which are both qualitative and quantitative) by coalescing scientific inquiry and rational debates to prove or disprove the outcomes and interpretations emanating from the data collected (Carter, 2009, p.239).

It is to be observed that no statistical data in any way offers assurance on the accuracy of any data. More precaution should be taken especially when a comparison is made between identification and examination of risk factors and incidences behind dwelling fires in Saudi Arabia. Reliability of the data is the outcome of a series of actions which commences with the proper explanation of the issues to be resolved. This may push on to a clear recognition of the yardsticks concerned. It contains the target samples to be chosen, the proper sampling strategy and the sampling methods to be employed. When necessary samples have to be studied, the outcomes should be illustrated in such a style that those who arrive at the findings and initiate actions can do so with all adequate guarantees (Barcelo, 2000, p.626).

Survey Sample Framework

A sample is a subset of the population, i.e. it comprises some elements chosen from the whole population (Barcelo, 2000, p.626). Sampling is the process of selecting a sufficient number of elements from the population (Easterby, 2008, p.216). The study of the sample and an understanding of its properties or characteristics would make it possible to generalize such properties to the population elements; that is, characteristics of the population such as population total, population mean, population standard deviation and population variance [parameters] can be approximated via measures of central tendency, dispersion, and other statistics (Easterby, 2008, p.216). A sample is said to be representative if the sample statistics are the same as the population parameters – rarely do we find this outcome – however if the sample is picked in a scientific way, then the sample statistics may approximate the population parameters with a slight probability that the sample values might fall outside the population parameters. The main reasons for sampling include: it is impractical to collect data from the entire population; sampling is time saving, in addition to saving costs and human resources. Collecting data from the entire population may occasion fatigue and increased errors; hence, sampling is widely preferred (Bryman and Bell, 2003, p.308).

In this study the questionnaires were issued to households and selected workers of fire fighting agency. The study chose a target of 200 respondents and received feedback from 150 respondents. This is equivalent to a 75% response rate which is very good. The questionnaire targeted mostly the normal households and regular employees, but not the top management due to the ethical standards requirements.

Questionnaire Administration

Data can be classified into two and they are secondary data and primary data. Primary data refers to the new data (observation, survey, interview, experiment, etc) that the researcher needs to collect for the research while secondary data refers to the existing data that are available in various sources including books, journals, internet, etc. (Easterby, 2008, p.216). For primary data collection, the issue is to focus on sampling. As far as researcher is considered, the sampling technique is significant. For example, the sample size that is determined should not be too small as this will make it difficult to generalize the data. It is to be noted that reliable results can be originated from larger sample size (Bryman and Bell, 2003, p.309).

Secondary data can be said to be quantifiable. Quantitative data collection methods mean that numerical data are collected and analyzed using descriptive and inferential statistics, which provide wide coverage, reliability and objectivity, but lack other details and specific information. Qualitative data collection methods refer to non-numeric data that are collected through observations, interviews and formal or informal discussions. It deals with specific problem, but lacks objectivity and generalization (Saunders, 2009, p.241). Secondary data was got mainly from publications, case studies and from the internet.

The primary data sources comprise observation and participant observation, questionnaires and interviews, texts and documents, focused group, case study, etc. Questionnaires are practical approaches of collecting data. Respondents were also given the analogue questions that were supplemented by in depth interviews. In addition, the questionnaires can be sent manually, electronically, or by postal means. The outstanding advantages of using questionnaires are that the data are accurate, anonymous, and they can cover a broad location without any geographical limitation. The disadvantages of using questionnaires are that they could be expensive, impersonal, delay in getting results, and the response rate can be very low (Saunders, 2009, p.241). When delivering the questionnaire, the researchers expect to get responses within the set deadline (Saunders, 2009, p.241). For maximizing the response rate, stamped and addressed envelopes were sent out to the respondents. After a week, a follow up postcard was sent out as a follow up questionnaire. In addition, the researcher gave instructions and the purpose of the questionnaire as well as ensuring confidentiality.

Respondents and Unit of Analysis

In this study the questionnaires were issued to households and selected workers of fire fighting agency. The study chose a target of 200 respondents and received feedback from 150 respondents. This is equivalent to a 75% response rate which is very good. The questionnaire targeted mostly the normal households and regular employees, but not the top management due to the ethical standards requirements.

In this research, data from the survey were entered into the Excel spreadsheet program for future analysis. Data was analyzed using SPSS, regression and correlation analysis.

Non-Response Bias

Non-response bias is a situation whereby the respondents give answers that are very different from the possible answer of the participants who did not respond (Bryman and Bell, 2003, p.310). An illustration on how non-responsive bias occurs is whereby the researcher selects a sample of administrators and conducts a survey with regard to their work commitment, the administrators with a higher level of work commitment might not respond to the survey due to the fact that they have a limited amount of time for participation; on the other hand, administrators with a lower level of work commitment might be shy to respond because of the fear that their colleagues might think of them as inefficient. Thus, in this scenario, a non-response bias can result to the underestimation of the work commitment level or overestimation of the same.

In this research the non-response bias was tested through e-mail survey. When conducting the e-mail survey, the researcher already knows about certain values e.g. information pertaining to the biographical characteristics of the respondents, such as, age, gender, education level, occupation, etc. The researcher can then compare these values to the values that exist in the sample of the participants who had initially responded. When no difference or minimal difference exists, then non-responsive bias also does not exist.

Another way of testing for non-responsive bias is through conducting a phone survey. This method is similar to conducting an e-mail survey, except that in this case, the respondents are contacted through phone calls rather than e-mails.

Interviews

Interviewing is another way for collecting data. The advantages of using interview for data collection are that it can get full information, know the client and it is very flexible. On the other hand, the disadvantages are that it takes time, the cost is high, and it may result in bias since it is subjective (Saunders, 2009, p.241). In order to conduct research on the identification and examination of risk factors and incidence behind dwelling fires in Saudi Arabia, an interview schedule based on a semi-structured questionnaire was used. The interviews took place in the households and at first, the researcher needed to have a permit to set up the interview. In the fire fighting agency, contact with the manager was the first step, and then when having the permit to conduct the interview, the researcher had to consider the ethical issues that were required during the process. The confidentiality of the research is important, and it is mainly used to preserve the authenticity of the research. Using this type of data collection could result to biasness since it is very subjective.

Case Study Approach

Case study is an approach of methodology that is applied when a comprehensive research or investigation is required. Case study is widely applied in sociological studies, but of late it is commonly applied in research institutions (Saunders, 2009, p.242). Case study approach has procedures to be followed; hence, the researcher is required to stick to the guiding rules and principles so as to produce the best results. Through case study approach, the researcher has access to a wide range of data sources; as a result of this, case study results are always very comprehensive and in-depth (Saunders, 2009, p.242).

Case study research does not entail sampling; hence it is beneficial to select the cases in a relevant manner in order to maximize on what should be learnt. Through case study approach, relevant issues that form the basis of the study are thoroughly exploited. In addition, issues that appear to be more complex are brought to light through the use of case study as a research approach. The basic steps to be followed when structuring a case study approach are: (a) the research questions should be clearly stated and defined; (b) choose the cases and the data collection and analysis techniques; (c) arrange to gather data; (d) process and analyze the collected data; (d) make a report with regard to the analyzed data.

In this research, the case study covered the study site, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. It is situated in the western side of Asia. Saudi Arabia has a surface area of 2,149,690 km2; therefore, it covers a major portion of the Arabian Peninsula (Central Department of Statistics and Information, 2010, United Nations: Statistics Division, 2008). As per the year 2010, the total population was 27.137 million people (Central Department of Statistics and Information, 2010, United Nations: Statistics Division, 2008). 18.6% of the total population dwells in rural areas while only 30% are 14 years old and younger. Saudi Arabia has 13 provinces; these provinces are sub-divided into governorates. The governorates are headed by a governor.

Dwelling fires in Saudi Arabia

Just like any other country, Saudi Arabia faces many fire incidences. The probability levels of the fire risk depend on several factors that contribute to the fire occurrence. A majority of the fire incidences are mainly reported in rural and low income areas. This is due to the fact that these areas lack proper planning in terms of construction of the buildings. The level of education is too low, thus, many residents are not well enlightened when it comes to managing and containing fire disasters. In addition, many of the rural areas have vacant houses that mainly host the homeless or the street children. These people normally abuse drugs and in many cases they smoke carelessly without caring to dispose off the cigarettes appropriately; hence leading to major fire outbreaks.

In the rural areas, the buildings are quite congested and in many cases these buildings are made of wood which is highly combustible – in case of any fire outbreak it becomes so hard to stop the fire. Also, many buildings are not fitted with firefighting equipments as the population is too poor to afford those appliances; this has made it so hard to fight fires when they arise. Because of the high poverty levels in these areas, many parents leave their young children at home to go to work. These children are not under watch by adults or mature members of the society, thus, at times they can decide to play dangerous games that trigger the occurrence of a fire hazard.

The population in the rural areas is so high and many houses are residential occupancies. The high population level has rendered resources like water to be unavailable, hence, when a fire outbreak occurs, putting it out becomes so hard. The kinds of road network that exist in rural areas are poor and it is not easy for the firefighters to make their way to these areas when an outbreak occurs. In addition, there are major traffic congestions in urban centers; this has slowed down the speed of response by the fire department.

In the urban centers, fires normally occur in industrialized complexes, shopping malls or departmental stores. This is due to the fact that these buildings host a large number of people and store a wide range of goods, some of which are highly combustible. In addition, the high population of people in these buildings makes it very hard for the firefighters to maneuver through the building since there is no enough space for them to do their work.

Summary

Methodology is the process of instructing the ways to do the research. It is, therefore, convenient for conducting the research and for analyzing the research questions (Snell and Dean, 1992, p.480). The process of methodology insists that much care should be given to the kinds and nature of procedures to be adhered to in accomplishing a given set of procedures or an objective. Methodology gives a description of distinct methods or procedures that are to be used in analyzing the data. These methods or procedures stand for a creative generic structure; thus, their order may be rearranged, or they may be combined or broken down in sub-processes.

For the research strategy, first, with regard to the qualitative research, areas of study were chosen with determination, paying attention to whether the areas of study are in line with the features that have been predetermined (Creech, 1995, p.33). Next, the part played by the researchers was to obtain a higher critical care (Creech, 1995, p.33). This is mainly done in qualitative research due to the fact that there is every chance of the researcher assuming a transcendental or a ‘neutral’ position. Thus, this appears to be more elusive both in philosophical and/or practical terms.

It is for this reason that the qualitative researchers are frequently pressed to mirror on their part in the research procedures and make things obvious in their research analyses. It is the qualitative procedures that are used for explaining puzzling quantitative results or for exploration (i.e. hypothesis-generating). However, the most customary division between the employment of quantitative and qualitative research particularly in the social sciences is that quantitative methods are employed to evaluate the main hypotheses. This is so to establish content correctness and to evaluate measures that the researcher believes he/she should evaluate. This is regarded as one of the striking benefits of qualitative research. Some researchers have the view that quantitative research methods provide many samples and have accurate and steadfast procedures by generating relevant hypotheses and statistical tools that can be applied in the field of mathematics.

For the logic and conceptual system development, choosing a logic and conceptual system of the research design is a choice between the positivist and the social constructionist (Easterby, 2008, p.147). The positivist view shows that social worlds exist externally, and its properties are supposed to be measured objectively, rather than being inferred subjectively through feelings, intuition, or reflection. The basic beliefs for the positivist view are that the observer is independent, and science is free of value. The researchers should concentrate on facts, look for causality and basic laws, reduce phenomenon to simplest elements, and form hypotheses and test them. The researchers should concentrate on meaning, look for understanding for what really happened and develop ideas with regard to the data. Preferred methods for the social constructionists include using different approaches to establish different views of phenomenon and small samples evaluated in depth or over time (Saunders, 2009, p.322). For the case of how to identify and experiment the risk factors behind dwelling fires in Saudi Arabia, the philosophy of the social constructionists would be used for carrying out the research because it tends to produce qualitative data, and the data are subjective since the gathering process would also be subjective due to the involvement of the researcher.

For the research process, the choices of the two processes: deductive and inductive processes can be used for carrying out the research (Easterby, 2008, p.203). A deductive approach is described as a study in which the theory is tested by the empirical observation, and is referred to as moving from the general to the specific. Deductive research establishes a theory and then checks on the data; it uses quantitative data and it is a very structured approach. On the other hand, inductive approach is a study in which the theory is developed from observation of reality and is the opposite of deductive research; it moves from the specific observations to the general statements. Inductive approach does not start with the theory, and is very flexible using qualitative data (Saunders, 2009, p.231).

A sample is a subset of the population, i.e. it comprises some elements chosen from the whole population (Barcelo, 2000, p.626). Sampling is the process of selecting a sufficient number of elements from the population (Easterby, 2008, p.216). The study of the sample and an understanding of its properties or characteristics would make it possible to generalize such properties to the population elements; that is, characteristics of the population such as population total, population mean, population standard deviation and population variance [parameters] can be approximated via measures of central tendency, dispersion, and other statistics (Easterby, 2008, p.216).

Qualitative research is a way in which research questions are captured in various academic fields of study, conventionally used in the social sciences, but also in research on market and other areas (Snell and Dean, 1992, p.480). Exhaustive apprehensions of human demeanor with regard to qualitative researchers are being carried out with an aim to assess the causes that relate to such demeanor. The qualitative method investigates the question as to how and why decision making is carried out; hence, focused and smaller samples are more frequently preferred to huge samples (Skinner, 1953, p.306). On the particular cases studied, qualitative methods produced only information and any more general findings were only conjectures (guesses on informative).

Quantitative methods on the other hand verified the validity and truthfulness of the hypotheses (Romzek, 1989, p.655). Creech (1995) further asserts that qualitative methods can be explained as a source of data or an explanation based on the dimensions of the graph or a non-mathematical data collection. The most customary demarcation between the uses of quantitative and qualitative research especially in the social sciences is that qualitative procedures are employed for illustrating confounding quantitative outcomes or for exploration (i.e., conjecture-engendering). On the contrary, quantitative methods are being employed to evaluate theories. This has been demonstrated as one of the fundamentals of qualitative research. Some critics think that quantitative method of analysis purposes to offer many illustrations, precise and reliable evaluation mainly through centered conjectures, applied mathematics and evaluation tools.

Various researchers have the view that quantitative research methods provide many samples and have accurate and steadfast procedures by generating relevant hypotheses and statistical tools that can be applied in the field of mathematics (Bryman and Bell, 2003, p.215). Qualitative research takes a lot of time to conduct besides being much expensive. In various kinds of research, more cost effective methods of qualitative research have been designed; this has helped to solve the problem of high costs and the speed of conducting the research. It is important that the research should be conducted timely, paying much attention to the limited resources in relation to the cost (Bryman and Bell, 2003, p.214). In collecting the data, qualitative researchers may employ varied overtures, like narratology, classical ethnography, grounded theory practice, shadowing, or storytelling. In other methodological approaches, qualitative procedures are also generically present, like actor-network theory or action research. Contours of the data gathered can include group discussions and interviews, reflection field notes and observation, various pictures, texts, and other forms (Bryman and Bell, 2003, p.217).

Questionnaires are pre-formulated set of questions which require the respondents to record their answers usually within closely defined alternatives (Carter, 2009, p.239). Questionnaires can be administered to the respondents either by mail or personally by the researcher. Before designing a questionnaire, there are three principles to pay attention to, these principles include: principles of wording, principles of measurement and the general set up of the questionnaire. There are basic principles that govern the design of the questionnaires and these principles need to be adhered to. In this research, questionnaires were used to collect the data. The questionnaires were issued to 200 respondents who were mainly household residents. The participants’ responses were treated with much confidentiality. Interviewing is another way for collecting data. The advantages of using interview for data collection are that it can get full information, know the client and it is very flexible. On the other hand, the disadvantages are that it takes time, the cost is high, and it may result in bias since it is subjective (Saunders, 2009, p.241). In order to conduct research on the identification and examination of risk factors and incidence behind dwelling fires in Saudi Arabia, an interview schedule based on a semi-structured questionnaire was used.

Validity refers to whether an instrument actually measures what it is supposed to measure, given the context in which it is applied. Reliability is concerned with consistence of measures. The level of an instruments’ reliability is dependent on its ability to produce the same results when used repeatedly. To achieve validity and reliability, the data was checked for coding errors and omissions while coding into excel sheets. The database was also verified for accuracy and completeness of all the entries to ensure reliability of data is achieved. Reliability of the data is the outcome of a series of actions which commences with the proper explanation of the issues to be resolved. This may push on to a clear recognition of the yardsticks concerned. It contains the target samples to be chosen, the proper sampling strategy and the sampling methods to be employed. When necessary samples have to be studied, the outcomes should be illustrated in such a style that those who arrive at the findings and initiate actions can do so with all adequate guarantees (Barcelo, 2000, p.626).

Primary data refers to the new data (observation, survey, interview, experiment, etc) that the researcher needs to collect for the research while secondary data refers to the existing data that are available in various sources including books, journals, internet, etc. (Easterby, 2008, p.216). For primary data collection, the issue is to focus on sampling. The primary data sources comprise observation and participant observation, questionnaires and interviews, texts and documents, focused group, case study, etc. As far as researcher is considered, the sampling technique is significant. For example, the sample size that is determined should not be too small as this will make it difficult to generalize the data. It is to be noted that reliable results can be originated from larger sample size (Bryman and Bell, 2003, p.309). Secondary data can be said to be quantifiable. Quantitative data collection methods mean that numerical data are collected and analyzed using descriptive and inferential statistics, which provide wide coverage, reliability and objectivity, but lack other details and specific information.

Non-response bias is a situation whereby the respondents give answers that are very different from the possible answer of the participants who did not respond (Bryman and Bell, 2003, p.310). An illustration on how non-responsive bias occurs is whereby the researcher selects a sample of administrators and conducts a survey with regard to their work commitment, the administrators with a higher level of work commitment might not respond to the survey due to the fact that they have a limited amount of time for participation; on the other hand, administrators with a lower level of work commitment might be shy to respond because of the fear that their colleagues might think of them as inefficient.

Case study is an approach of methodology that is applied when a comprehensive research or investigation is required. Case study is widely applied in sociological studies, but of late it is commonly applied in research institutions (Saunders, 2009, p.242). Case study approach has procedures to be followed; hence, the researcher is required to stick to the guiding rules and principles so as to produce the best results. Through case study approach, the researcher has access to a wide range of data sources; as a result of this, case study results are always very comprehensive, broad, complete and in-depth (Saunders, 2009, p.242).

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Appendices

Appendix 1: Questionnaire

Biographical Characteristics

  1. Gender
    • Male
    • Female
  2. Age _____ years
  3. Level of education _______________________________________________
  4. Occupation _____________________________________________________
  5. Income level ____________________________________________________
  6. Family size _____________________________________________________
  7. Type of occupancy
    • Assembly Occupancy
    • Care or Detention Occupancy
    • Residential Occupancy
    • Business Occupancy
    • Mereantile Occupancy
    • Industrial Occupancy
  8. 8. Type of building
    • Residential Buildings
    • Lowrise Buildings
    • Highrise Buildings

The following statements describe your level of awareness and capabilities to prevent and respond to fire hazards. Please respond by indicating the degree to which each of the statements applies to you using the following scale:

1
Strongly
Disagree
2
Disagree
3
Slightly
Disagree
4
Neither
Agree of
Disagree
5
Slightly Agree
6
Agree
7
Strongly Agree

There is no right or wrong answer. Write the number that best indicates to what extent each of the statement is true or not true in the parenthesis provided at the end of each statement

  1. I am well informed to handle fire hazards
  2. My building is fitted with fire sprinklers
  3. High population exposes me to fire risks
  4. Older and aged people are more vulnerable to fire hazards
  5. Young children who are not tended to are vulnerable to fire hazards
  6. I have combustible materials in my house
  7. My building is made of combustible materials
  8. The community receives enough training on fire hazards
  9. The fire department responds on time when called upon during fire calamities
  10. Poverty has escalated the fire incidents
  11. Close proximity of buildings contributes to fire hazards
  12. Dwelling fires cause great loss to life and property
  13. Dwelling fires can be prevented