Fire

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Submitted By Jagger79
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Why people don't respond to alarm signals

People often fail to respond quickly to fire alarm signals. A common example: In a hotel, a fire alarm sounds late at night. Only a handful of people actually dress and leave (often using the elevators). A few people call the front desk. Many people periodically poke their heads out their doors to see what's going on. But mostly, people simply wait for the alarm signal to stop. Eventually, the alarm either shuts off, or someone (hopefully) comes to tell them that there is a real emergency and they must leave.

This problem has aggravated and perplexed fire safety professionals over the years. Some denounce the public for their stupidity in failing to recognize the potential danger indicated by a fire alarm signal. Their concern is valid: in many fire emergencies, a rapid response is critical to survival. But attributing the problem to public stupidity is inaccurate and of no value in correcting the problem. In reality, people are simply exhibiting natural tendencies.

Why don't people respond to alarm systems? There are several reasons. In this essay, these reasons are divided into two main categories:

Alarm signals as sources of information.
Other reasons why people do and don't respond apart from the information-value of alarm signals.
Alarm signals as a source of information. In order to understand why people fail to respond to alarm signals, we need to look at the information-value of alarm signals. By information-value, we mean the degree to which an alarm signal is useful in reducing uncertainty. Stated differently, how useful is an alarm signal in helping people achieve good situation awareness?

One problem is that people may fail to recognize that a signal indicates the need to immediately evacuate a building. Recent code revisions address this problem by mandating a "temporal code three" signal.…...

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