Fire protection engineers examine the movement of people as well as the capability of computer models to simulate real people movement. Recent activities have included an analysis of the speed and flow rate of people during evacuations down stairs. While these aspects have been examined by numerous researchers around the world, with the result being to report the average speed or flow of people during evacuations, the department’s research has focused on understanding the range of movement speeds and flows that result. The department research also examined how people travel in groups, or “platoons,” sometimes pass others (but not very often) and how two streams of people merge. 

Another recent study assessed the impact of body size on the speed and flow rate of people evacuating from different spaces. Because much of the literature on people movement in the U.S. is from several decades ago, and given the well-documented increase in size of the American population, the most recent study was to understand the impact of the increased body size on evacuation times. An ongoing project is seeking to provide guidance on when a phased evacuation strategy should be preferred over total building evacuation, given a range of building and occupant characteristics. 

Projects involving evacuation analyses were led by Professor Jim Milke