Building Security Tops Americans’ List

Feb. 23, 2006
Survey finds that more Americans chose security as a building’s most important feature

A nationwide survey conducted by Bethesda, MD-based Society for Fire Protection Engineers (SFPE) reveals that from a list of characteristics that included comfort, fire safety, environmental friendliness, and other amenities, security was chosen by more Americans as the most important feature of a building.

Twenty-eight percent of Americans feel that security is the most important feature, while 15 percent of respondents indicated that fire safety is the most important aspect of a building’s design.

“The findings are not a huge surprise to us given the threat from terrorism that we face today,” says Chris Jelenewicz, engineering program manager with SFPE. “But, one thing people don’t often think about is how security and fire protection have common goals in building design - protecting life and property.”

As part of National Engineering Week, Feb. 19-25, SFPE is publishing on its website ( an article from Fire Protection Engineering Magazine that features how fire protection engineers design ways to balance fire protection and security in a building.

“Throughout history, the desire for increased building security has contributed to countless deadly building fires. The most notable fire occurred at the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory in New York City in 1911, where locked exit doors contributed to 146 fatalities,” says Jelenewicz. “Although the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire occurred almost 100 years ago, the threat can still exist today if security is not balanced with fire protection. For instance, padlocked exit doors contributed to the deaths of 175 concertgoers at a Buenos Aires nightclub fire in 2004.”

The survey also reveals that 56 percent of Americans think about fire and the dangers of fire either on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis. A sizeable 44 percent think about fire just once a year - or less. This finding remains unchanged from 12 months ago, when the same question was asked.

Another noteworthy finding from the survey revealed that 44 percent of Americans feel safer in their home when compared to public and commercial buildings - such as schools, churches, or offices.

“Although some people may feel safer in their homes, more fire fatalities occur in homes than in other types of buildings,” says Jelenewicz. “Building regulations have stricter fire safety requirements for public buildings than they do for homes. Accordingly, the efforts of fire protection engineers are generally focues on public buildings, which are consequently much safer.”

The survey, commissioned by the Society for Fire Protection Engineers and conducted this month by Synovate, polled more than 1,000 American adults. The findings have a margin of error of +/- 3 percent.

This information was reprinted with permission from the Society for Fire Protection Engineers, an organization that strives to advance the science and practice of fire protection engineering, maintain a high ethical standing among its members, and foster fire protection engineering education. To find out more about SFPE, visit (

Voice your opinion!

To join the conversation, and become an exclusive member of Buildings, create an account today!

Sponsored Recommendations