Reducing the Vulnerability of Shahid Beheshti University dormitories to the risks of Fire and Earthquake

Document Type : علمی - پژوهشی


Associate Professor, Faculty of Architecture and Urban Planning, Shahid Beheshti University


Student dormitories are vulnerable to the risk of fire and earthquake for many reasons including the fact that they represent areas with high population density, supporting occupants 24 hours a day, and exposed to the threat of structural faults, as well as mechanical and electrical equipment failure. Such factors are further aggravated by the lack of effective disaster plans and response procedures to guide resident behaviours in the event of an emergency, which also increase the chances of otherwise preventable injuries or death. Located within a seismic zone to the north of Tehran, the student dormitories of Shahid Beheshti University require the development of a vulnerability reduction program for such possible incidents.Though building retrofitting reduces the possibility of structural collapse, such operations are rarely feasible due to the lack of sufficient budgetary support, the need to suspend educational activities during the construction process, and the extended time required for such undertakings. In addition, even during retrofitting processes where the objective is to strengthen the building structure, the occupiers can still be injured if the construction efforts are not accompanied with educational programs informing the occupiers of proper evacuation procedures during emergency events. As a result, in recent years, efforts to reduce the vulnerability of dormitories have not only included the development of disaster plans focusing on the structure of the buildings, but attention has also been placed on strengthening non-structural elements such as educating occupiers on how to react, behave and exercise control in the event of an emergency incident. Such an approach is seen to be effective in establishing a formal protocol to be followed, an understanding by occupiers, and therefore ultimately reducing the risk of avoidable injuries and casualties. The research methodology involved in this project is a descriptive analytical approach undertaking a field investigation using a Rapid Visual Screening (RVS) method. During this process, all occupiers including students, staff and service workers are interviewed in depth in order to find out their understanding of suitable behaviour during an emergency situation. Once performed, all dormitory maps and drawings are subsequently updated and an observation is carried out to measure the non-structural defects in all architectural elements, as well as the risk posed by mechanical and electrical equipment. Finally, the emergency exit plans are also developed. The research findings propose a number of applicable recommendations. With regard to the development of a disaster plan, an incident command system (ICS) is suggested in order to allocate responsibilities to occupants, supported by regular practical rehearsals within the dormitories. Public education programs, such as first aid and fire distinguishing courses are also included aspects of the proposed plan. In addition, all non-structural elements can be strengthened by using appropriate materials and equipment. The findings may also be applicable for other university dormitories in the country.

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