The burning desire to prevent fire catastrophes

15 February 2008  •  Author(s): Dr. Haukur Ingason, Fire Protection Researcher, SP Technical Research Institute of Sweden

Fire incidents in trains can be divided into two main groups: those we can manage and those we cannot. For example, if a burning train comes to a stop inside a tunnel, the situation may become very difficult to manage, both for the tunnel operators and fire services. Such scenarios are fortunately rare. Statistics show that the risk of a large fire incident in a train is low. The risk is even lower of such an incident in a tunnel. This is a fact that many involved in the safety issues of trains and underground subway systems are very well aware of.

Despite the risk of fire incidents in tunnels being very low, there have been occasions when fires have developed into catastrophic events and these few disastrous fires have placed a focus on fire safety in rail and subway tunnels. When such incidents occur, the media focus becomes extremely high and the work of safety authorities and tunnel operators comes under close scrutiny. The agenda is set by these incidents but it does not necessarily mean that the safety standards are ruled by them.

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