New software predicts how people use lifts in a fire scenario

Software predicts crowd behaviour in evacuation scenario

The world’s first evacuation software simulating realistic human behaviour in a dangerous situation involving lifts has been developed by the Greenwich University researchers.

Named the buildingEXODUS, the software predicts how panicking and stressed people ordered to evacuate a building in a blaze would behave and whether they would use lifts or stairs. The researchers believe such information could help safety engineers better design and evaluate escape routes.

"The capability to simulate the use of lifts for evacuation provides safety engineers with an unrivalled ability to simulate every conceivable evacuation scenario in 21st century buildings,” said Professor Ed Galea, Director of the University’s Fire Safety Engineering Group and developer of the buildingEXODUS software.  

“Unlike other models, the buildingEXODUS lift model not only considers the kinematics of lift movement, it also takes into consideration human behaviour in using lifts such as the willingness for people to wait for a lift in a crowded environment during an emergency,” he said.  

The researchers first surveyed 468 people from 23 countries; questioning them about how would they behave in an emergency scenario. The data revealed in the event of an emergency people are less willing to wait for a lift then previously assumed.

The software enables building engineers to perform realistic desk top simulations of people in both normal and emergency conditions. The software simulates not only how individual people interact with each other and the built environment, but also how they are debilitated by hazards such as heat, smoke and toxic gases.

To simulate these complex relationships, the software uses sophisticated rule based systems to control the interaction of five advanced sub models.

For example, the human behaviour submodel includes rules governing the behaviour of people interacting with smoke in fire situations; how people interact with wayfinding signage; and how they select whether to use a lift/elevator or adjacent stairs.  

The arrival of this level of sophistication on the desk top means that the building engineer can test more designs in less time to reach the optimal solution, free from costly and unrealistic assumptions.

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