Uncertainty-based decision-making in fire safety: Analyzing the alternatives

Jaime E. Cadena*, Andres F. Osorio, Jose L. Torero, Genserik Reniers, David Lange

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)


Large accidents throughout the 20th century marked the development of safety fields in engineering, devoted to better identify hazards, understand risks and properly manage them. As these fields evolved rather quickly and moved from a compliance to a risk-based approach, a significant delay in this transition was experienced in fire safety engineering (FSE). Devastating fires well into the 21st century and the restrictive nature of prescriptive codes signaled the need to transition towards a performance-based one. A performance-based approach provides flexibility and capitalizes on learning from accidental events and engineering disciplines such as process safety and FSE. This work provides an overview of the main alternatives to account for uncertainty in safety studies within the context of FSE, including traditional probabilistic analyses and emerging approaches such as strength of knowledge. A simple example is used to illustrate the impact of the uncertainty analysis on the results of a simple fire safety assessment. A structured evaluation is performed on each alternative to assess its ease of implementation and communication. The outcome is a compendium of advantages and disadvantages of the alternatives that constitute a toolbox for fire safety engineers to configure and use within their fire risk assessments. Process safety engineers are expected to gain an understanding of the similar and important challenges of FSE, being it directly relevant for process risk management and fire risk management in administrative buildings.

Original languageEnglish
Article number104288
JournalJournal of Loss Prevention in the Process Industries
Publication statusPublished - 2020


  • Fire risk
  • Fire safety engineering
  • Risk assessment
  • Uncertainties
  • Uncertainty analysis


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