Reasonable Fire Protection?

I have a new publication listed at my publication page! It is a research article published in the Journal of Risk Research. The article is based on a study conducted by two master students that I supervised on the topic of what counts as a reasonable level of fire protection. The thing is that in Sweden we have multiple actors engaging in the system of establishing a certain level of fire protection measures in buildings. We also have some regulation. It is when these actors and regulations start interacting that really interesting (and highly complex) phenomena arise. This is the core of the conducted study.

Basically we have a Swedish Law stating that every owner of a building ought to have a "reasonable extent of fire protection measures". This is not an uncommon way of formulating a law, it is inherently vague, open for different interpretations based on stakeholder interests, and gives rise to several goal-conflicts.

What the students that I supervised did was that they started with a stakeholder analysis in which they tried to identify all the relevant stakeholders that engage in establishing a certain level of fire protection in hotels. These were the Civil Contingencies Agency (responsible for supervising the law), the Rescue services (responsible for the legislative area of the law cited above), the Rescue Services (local authority responsible for supervising the hotel owners’ fulfilment of the requirements stated in the law), the National Board of Housing, Building and Planning (the agency responsible for the legislative area of building and housing), the hotel owners and their central association, and finally the Swedish Fire Protection Association (an association with the objective to reduce the costs and damages caused by fires).

Based on the stakeholder analysis the students started interviewing representatives from these organizations. They asked questions about how they perceived their respective roles, how they perceived the roles of the other stakeholders and the interaction.

The result is really interesting and points at several problems with maintaining a "reasonable" level of fire protection in an environment full of competing interests and perceptions. What we end up the article with are ethical considerations of deriving the behavior of the whole (at macro level) to a specific actor (blaming the individual hotel owner for not having established a reasonable level of fire protection) in the wake of a fire. The question should really be how the interaction between stakeholders led the system to a specific state. I think that the article that we published helps pointing in such a direction (the direction towards an ethical domain). 


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