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By: Enrico Ronchi, Department of Fire Safety Engineering, Lund University, Sweden
Ruggiero Lovreglio, School of Built Environment, Massey University, Auckland, New Zealand
Michael Kinsey, Arup Shanghai, Shanghai, China
Evacuation models can be used in fire safety engineering as part of a performance-based design approach. To date, over 70 evacuation models are available, including a great variability in simulation approaches and features. A potential model user
can find it difficult to know what are the most known and used models for fire safety engineering applications. Similarly, model developers may not be aware of the most important features which users value in evacuation models. To address these
issues, an online survey was conducted to investigate evacuation modelling users’ experiences and needs. The survey consisted of 22 questions focusing on different aspects related to evacuation models and the community of their users. This survey
was an expanded version of an earlier survey conducted by the Ronchi and Kinsey in 2011 , thus allowing a comparison between the current evacuation modelling market with the situation of approximately 10 years ago.
Who are the users of evacuation models and how are they used?
The survey was completed by 234 respondents from 41 countries. The respondents have a wide range of education and occupational backgrounds and use models for a variety of different purposes. Most of the sample is made of respondents with an engineering
and fire engineering background. A quarter of the sample works in academia while the remainder works in industry or other fire safety-related areas. The most frequent uses of evacuation models include fire safety design for building and transportation
infrastructure, research, emergency management and forensic investigations.
The types of building/infrastructure and the context in which evacuation models are used by the respondents are presented in Figure 1. The most common building types for which evacuation models were adopted/used were train/metro stations, shopping
malls, and arenas/stadia. This is unsurprising considering train/metro stations present a significant challenge for egress, possibly including the need for ascending evacuation . Similarly, shopping malls and arenas/stadia may host large crowds
which can be challenging to manage from an evacuation perspective. The results show that the main use of evacuation models relate to building compliance with codes/standards and aid in the design of new structures. Only 21% of respondents declared
they use BIM in conjunction with evacuation models.
Regarding the years of experience with evacuation models, almost 60% of the sample has between zero to five years of experience with evacuation models, thus indicating that there is a significant portion of users with a limited experience in model
use. This result is overall consistent with the 2011 survey. Respondents were also asked to report the frequency of usage of evacuation models. The results show that most people do not use them on a daily or weekly basis, but rather monthly or
yearly. With such infrequent usage, this may cause evacuation modelling knowledge/skill atrophy which could result in increased time required to conduct modelling assessments and increased the likelihood of mistakes being made. Regarding the type
of training, most users (72%) have been teaching themselves how to use an evacuation model rather than taking part in a formally taught course.
The respondents were asked the most important factors while selecting a pedestrian evacuation model. Those are namely 1) verification and validation, 2) documentation, and 3) data output of the model. This result is consistent with the 2011 survey
and it indicates that users clearly value the reliability of the data obtained by an evacuation model as one of the primary reasons for selecting a model. It is evident that several pedestrian evacuation model developers consider these factors
as very important as models are often accompanied by dedicated validation and verification documentation or papers presenting results of validation case studies.
What are the most known and used evacuation models?
A total of 72 evacuation models were known to the whole respondent sample. These results are based on a list of evacuation models which was provided to the respondent, along with the possibility to add models which were not mentioned in the list.
Figure 2 shows the percentage of respondents who are aware of different models (the total sum of the percentage is higher than 100% as respondents had the chance to indicate they were aware of more than one model).
Regarding model usage, the survey results suggest that despite the large number of models available (over 70 models), a limited number of models appear to be the most used. The top three most used models were Pathfinder (35%), STEPS (9%), and MassMotion
(9%). Amongst the survey respondents, 23% reported that they have changed the evacuation model they use in the past.
An online survey was conducted to investigate evacuation model awareness, usage, and users. The results indicate that despite the large number of models available (over 70 models), a limited number of models seems to be the most used only 12 models
used by at least 1% of the sample. Based on the sample of the survey respondents, it appears evident that evacuation models seem to be mostly used by inexpert and non-regular users. The main usage of evacuation models relates to buildings and
infrastructures which present challenges from an evacuation perspective (particularly in terms of the large crowds they may host). Participants of the survey ranked the most important factors for selecting a model as being the reliability of the
results obtained and the documentation explaining the model.
This paper is a short version of a manuscript which has been published in the Fire Technology journal. Further information about the survey can be found in the full article associated with this work .
- E. Ronchi and M. Kinsey, ‘Evacuation models of the future: Insights from an online survey on user’s experiences and needs’, Santander, Spain, 2011, pp. 145–155.
- E. Ronchi et al., ‘Ascending evacuation in long stairways: Physical exertion, walking speed and behaviour’, Department of Fire Safety Engineering, Lund University, Lund, Sweden, 3192, 2015.
- R. Lovreglio, E. Ronchi, and M. J. Kinsey, ‘An Online Survey of Pedestrian Evacuation Model Usage and Users’, Fire Technology, Nov. 2019, doi: 10.1007/s10694-019-00923-8.