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Not Frequency, but Severity

When was the last time you were in a building that was on fire?  Not staging a fire drill. Not a malfunctioning smoke detector.  Not a dinner gone bad and generating smoke.  Actually on fire.  Most people have never been in a building on fire.  And if they have, it is likely a once in a life time event.  Yet all of our commercial buildings built throughout our country are required to have fire alarm systems.  Why?  

It’s not frequency, but severity.  When fire, smoke and people are together, people are likely to die unless they are warned quickly to take precautions.  The consequences are potentially severe every time.  Fire alarm systems are required by code because they save lives, no matter how rare the occurrence might be.  

A risk matrix or frequency-severity table is a tool to help think through various risks as a means to allocating resources to mitigate risk.  The simplest of tables has 4 categories: Low Frequency/Low Severity, High Frequency/ Low Severity, High Frequency/ High Severity, and Low Frequency/ High Severity.

As you might expect, the risks that fall into the high frequency, high severity receive  a great deal of attention, planning and training.  They should.  The high frequency, low severity risks receive some attention simply because they are frequent, but because the severity is low, they do not demand as much of our resources.  Obviously low frequency, low severity risks receive little to no resources.  The most difficult to prepare for are those of high severity and low frequency.  Do they get enough of our resources?

As a means to provide an example from the world of construction, the high frequency high severity category of risks includes working from heights.  Companies invest in scaffolding, man-lifts, fall protection equipment, etc. to make sure their people are protected while working high in the air.  Working on grade (the ground floor) is obviously frequent, but low severity.  There are protections put in place to guard against trip hazards for instance but nothing to the degree of high work. Low frequency but high severity risks might include work adjacent to high voltage power lines.  Not only is there a significant consequence should something go wrong, the low frequency of the event means that people are less familiar with the situation and how to safely handle it or react properly.  

These risks - low frequency, high severity - are typically the most life threatening in any industry.  High frequency risks are managed in part through repetition - the more we do something the better we get at it even if it is dangerous.  Where as low frequency makes the risk that much harder to properly navigate - especially in a panic.  That is why, in all of our commercial facilities in the United States (and many other countries), we install fire alarm systems.  Fire / smoke injuries and death can be avoided through rapidly warning those in the building and getting the firemen and other trained professionals on site fast.  

At BluePoint, we have brought that same logic from fire alarm systems to another threat to life - armed intruders.  Our Rapid Emergency Response System is designed to be intuitive to use (critical for panicked people) and automate the 2 most important actions - warn others in harms’ way and get the police on site fast.  Even though our country has averaged more than 1 mass shooting per day since 1/1/2013 (, the majority of people have never been in a building while a mass shooting was occurring.  But is that a reason to not to protect people?  It isn’t for fire, and it shouldn’t be for armed intruder events - not frequency, but severity.

For more information on our intuitive solution to protect people in armed intruder events and provide your staff with peace of mind, please contact us.  We would love to do a demonstration and provide a quote.



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