Calculating Acceptable Risk


Those of us in the business of protecting lives and property aren’t big risk takers. Property owners, engineers and contractors know they can get burned – literally – if they approve fire and life safety systems that take unwarranted risks.

But what’s risky to one person may be acceptable to another. Although codes prescribe minimum safety measures, there can be some latitude in terms of execution or to what extent a facility can exceed basic requirements.

One fire protection engineer’s definition of risk may be to suggest an unusual alternative to the Authority Having Jurisdiction. A building owner with a great deal to lose may define risk as only meeting what the code mandates.

Striking a balance between accepting some degree of risk and doing whatever it takes to protect people or property is difficult. Assessment is the key to calculating risks and determining the most effective approaches to reduce potential threats. But risks and the ways to address them can transform over time.

Twenty years ago, it would have been hard to find a college campus with any procedures resembling today’s mass notification systems (MNSs); now, an MNS is expected. The threshold of acceptable risk has changed, and engineers have to be prepared for how changes happen in other environments.

System Sensor is well aware of the shifting landscape in an industry that used to be almost completely consumed by detecting and suppressing smoke and fire events. We have developed MNS and other emergency systems that can be integrated with our detection and notification systems, knowing that it doesn’t make sense to ignore the possibility of non-fire-related crises. Taking our chances by focusing only on fire is just not a risk we’re willing to take.

By Roopa Shortt,

Audible Visible Marketing Manager, System Sensor

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