Memory, Place, and Firefighting — Using a Typology of Floor Plans as a Wayfinding Tool in Smoke
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Wayfinding within any environment is contingent on the dynamic interaction between perceptual and cognitive processes. The kind of wayfinding firefighters perform is purpose-driven and time-sensitive. What makes firefighters unique in the history of human wayfinding practice is not the threat of physical harm, or the need to be sensitive to subtle environmental cues, rather it is the speed at which firefighters must orient to the environment and then navigate with impaired vision. There is a need to enhance firefighters’ understanding of the environment they operate in most-often. What is necessary, but does not currently exist, is a guide that structures how firefighters recognize, interpret, and communicate about houses. Such a guide would describe standard house types and allow fire- fighters to make more accurate predictions about the interior spatial configurations. The repetitive character of houses can be codified and used to improve firefighters’ wayfinding practices. This thesis examines how a typology of historic and contemporary residential floor plans (which are abstract representations of the most-common houses in the United States) are a valuable mnemonic tool for fire- fighters. Research into this aspect of architecture is placed within the context of firefighting and accounts for the experience of firefighters who are tasked with finding their way in toxic smoke to rescue those trapped or incapacitated — as fast as possible.
- Architecture