Completed Research

Anthropomorphic Data and Movement Speeds

Principal Investigator: Dr. John Gales, York University

The Research Problem

The standard analyses of life safety in buildings and transportation systems use simple uniform flow rates and walking speeds to calculate evacuation times which do not reflect the increasing proportions of elderly, obese and mobility impaired in our society. To address this issue, many research organizations have conducted project specific movement studies, some of which are tabulated in the recent SFPE Handbook of Fire Protection Engineering. However, these data sets often lack a common structure and are difficult to use as a resource.

The Project

York University, Canada, led a collaborative multi- institutional effort, including Arup and LUND University, Sweden, aiming to compile and organize contemporary, project specific, movement speeds from existing published and unpublished data sets from industry and academic partners globally, with special considerations for accessibility, upwards/downwards movement, etc.). The project also studied the underlying fundamental individual characteristics of movement to set the stage for future improvements in data collection.

The Goal

In addition to this report, the project output included an online portal and database, which is currently in final stages of development.

(Anthropomorphic Data and Movement Speeds [PDF])

(Determining Evacuation Capability with Biomechanical Data [PDF])

Estimating Occupant Loads in Retail Buildings

Principal Investigator: Gianluca DeSanctis, EBP Engineering, Switzerland

The Research Problem

Occupant load is a critical factor in egress analyses for fire safety systems. Codified values for occupant loads for many occupancies are estimates which frequently do not reflect actual conditions. More realistic data from occupant load studies is available, however it is derived by varying types of people counting systems. Further, a full statistical analysis of the data, taking into account its variability, is often not undertaken and reported. For retail buildings in particular, the variability of the occupant load can provide important design information.

The Project

The research study had three components:

  • An in depth assessment of currently available people counting systems, identifying strengths and weaknesses.
  • A review of occupant loads in actual fire incidents in retail buildings to assess optimum measurement intervals and statistical analyses.
  • An in depth statistical analysis of occupant data in Swiss retail stores, exploring the impact of occupancy detailed type, building configuration and location.

(Final Report [PDF])


The Chief Donald J. Burns Memorial Research Grant funds is no longer awarded. The purpose of this grant was to utilize information modeling as a means of improving infrastructure safety and fire service preparedness. The Grant is named in memory of FDNY Assistant Chief Donald Burns. Chief Burns died in the collapse of the World Trade Center Towers on September 11, 2001, while setting up his command post to direct the evacuation.

Funding for this grant was provided by Bentley Systems Incorporated. Bentley is a global leader in providing architects, engineers, geospatial professionals, constructors, and owner-operators with comprehensive software solutions for sustaining infrastructure.


2017 – Visual Localization Systems for Fire Brigade Using BIM Technology
Paula Smyczek, Dr. Piotr Tofilo and Dr. Adam Krasuski, Main School of Fire Service
( Final Report [PDF])

2016 – Real-Time Fire Monitoring and Visualization for the Post-Ignition Fire State in a Building
Paul Beata, Dr. Ann Jeffers and Dr. Vineet Kamat, University of Michigan
( Final Report [PDF])

2015 – Fire Navigator Research
Nahom Daniel and Dr. Guillermo Rein, Imperial College London
( Final Report [PDF])

2014 – Development of a Cyber Physical System for Fire Safety
Rosalie Faith Wills and Dr. Andre Marshall, University of Maryland
( Final Report [PDF]| Presentation [PPT])

2013 – Property Risk Optimization by Predictive Hazard Evaluation Tool (PROPHET)
Austin Anderson and Dr. O.A. Ezekoye, The University of Texas at Austin
( Final Report [PDF]| Presentation [PPT])

Modern Vehicle Hazards in Parking Garages and Vehicle Carriers

Principal Investigator: Combustion Science and Engineering, Inc.

The Research Problem

Modern vehicles present new fire hazards, including increased combustible content and alternative fuels. Modern parking garages have optimized space requirements for vehicle parking and storage and often implement automated retrieval features and car stacking, which presents unique hazards as well. The goal of this project is to quantify the fire hazard of modern vehicles in parking structures and vehicle carriers to provide guidance for standards and fire safety design of these structures.

The Project

The SFPE Foundation collaborated with the NFPA Fire Protection Research Foundation undertake a research needs study to determine priority needs for performance-based knowledge to assist the FPE in evaluating design considerations and codes with a potential focus on risk, egress, detection and suppression.

The project consisted of four components:
• A review of the literature to assess fire incidents, current fire protection requirements, and industry trends in parking structures and vehicle (eg marine) carriers.
• A hazard assessment of modern vehicles in the context of parking structures, and bench-marked against traditional vehicle and fueling systems.
• Based on the above information, an assessment of existing fire protection design criteria with a focus on sprinkler protection.
• Identification of gaps in information needed to provide technical guidance to inform appropriate design criteria.

The Report

Modern Vehicle Hazards in Parking Structures and Vehicle Carriers