The Impact of Post-Earthquake Fire on the Urban Environment
Major earthquakes are rare events in most countries but there have been cases in urban regions of fire following earthquakes. Its potential for growth and spread was again evident in the recent Northridge and Kobe earthquakes. This report identifies ways in which fire protection and fire engineering can work through public sector and private sector actions to reduce post-earthquake fire losses in urban building stock. It suggests a set of practical measures for building fire loss reduction that could be taken by territorial authorities, Fire Service, building owners and tenants, property and risk managers, insurers and fire engineers. It presents analyses of literature from international sources concerning fourteen recent earthquake events having fire impacts on major population centres. They identify the exceptional conditions present in the post-earthquake environment after major shaking, and how the mechanisms of fire ignition and the dynamics of fire spread usually present in the non-earthquake situation are modified in the aftermath of an earthquake to escalate fire losses, and cause the impairment of the normal processes for the control and suppression of fire. The management of the impact of fire in buildings can be achieved through structural fire design, to control the movement of fire and to provide structural stability. However, the structural and non-structural damage caused to buildings by earthquakes can lead to the loss of integrity of passive protection systems and allow the uncontrolled migration of smoke and hot gases internally. If automatic or manual suppression is delayed, the fire resistance of structural members is likely to be challenged. Fire protection and earthquake protection need to interact if fire safety systems are to continue to function after an earthquake. Effective seismic capacity in the design of sprinkler system components, pipework and on-site water storage are essential for reliable performance in the aftermath of a major earthquake, as the response of fire brigades to requests for emergency assistance, and their suppression effectiveness at firegrounds are likely to be impaired. This report provides a comprehensive list of measures for building fire loss reduction in the aftermath of an earthquake, and recommends areas for future research.