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News & Press: Foundation News

SFPE Foundation Awards First Annual Dr. Guylène Proulx, OC Scholarship to Robert Brown

Wednesday, May 20, 2015  
Posted by: Maggie McGary
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The SFPE Foundation announced that the first annualDr. Guylène Proulx, OC Scholarship has been awarded to Robert Brown, a PhD candidate at University of Greenwich, London, UK. This award was established in 2014 in honor of Dr. Guylène Proulx, an outstanding researcher in human factors and human behavior related to fire, and a passionate advocate for fire safety awareness. Her enduring legacy is the body of her research work, as well as the future research this annual grant will enable.

The grant will go towards funding Mr. Brown’s PhD project entitled “Collection, Analysis and Implementation of Human Performance Data from Planned Assembly Trials on Passenger Ships at Sea.” Despite continual improvements in ship structural design, operational practices, onboard technology and regulations, accidents involving capsize, sinking or fire still occur, resulting in the need to evacuate passenger ships. When such evacuations are necessary, the results are often devastating, with loss of life, sometimes numbering in the hundreds. The objectives of this research project were to plan and conduct semi-unannounced assembly exercises onboard large passenger ships, to collect data on passenger performance during the exercises in order to quantify response time and assembly time, to use the datasets collected to characterize the nature of passenger response times on the different ships and in different areas onboard, and to develop a method for validating evacuation models and demonstrate the impact of the new response time distributions on total assembly time in evacuation simulations.

The research undertaken in this project is novel both in the way that datasets have been collected and the knowledge gaps that have been addressed by the results. This dataset represents the largest, most comprehensive response time dataset ever collected on land or sea. The movement data collected has produced two comprehensive validation datasets for ship evacuation models, the only ship evacuation model validation sets currently available. Analysis of the data has provided important new information regarding the nature of passenger response to alarms and has shown that complex experiments can be planned successfully and executed safely to characterize the individual paths passengers take during the assembly process onboard large passenger ships. A paper coauthored by Mr. Brown and other members of the Fire Safety Engineering Group at University of Greenwich team, describing one of the datasets collected on the project, won the Royal Institution of Naval Architects (RINA) Medal of Distinction in 2014.

Edwin Galea, CAA professor in Mathematical Modelling and Director of the Fire Safety Engineering Group at University of Greenwich, is supervising this research project. The results of the study will be presented at a future SFPE conference.

“Rob and the project SAFEGUARD team are deeply honored by this award. The SAFEGUARD project involved understanding and quantifying human behavior in emergency situations and using that knowledge to improve life safety. Rob Brown’s significant contributions to the development of a novel automatic person tracking system, based on infrared technology, enabled the collection of large human performance datasets, which would have been impractical using conventional methods,” said Professor Galea.

“Dr. Guylène Proulx was an inspiration to us all, and we can think of no better tribute to her legacy than making the world a safer place in her name. To this end, the unique data produced by SAFEGUARD has been submitted to the International Maritime Organization (IMO) for consideration in updating international regulations of large passenger ship evacuation safety.”

“Guylène Proulx was considered by all who knew her to be one of the preeminent researchers in the field of human behavior in emergencies. This project honors her legacy by building on Professor Galea’s SAFEGUARD passenger evacuation research and holds the potential to save lives,” said April Hammond-Berkol, Chair of the SFPE Foundation’s Board of Governors. For more information about the grant or to make a donation to the foundation, visit the SFPE Foundation website.

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