Networking activity for Enhanced Evacuation Drills (NEED)

Lead Research Organisation: Northumbria University
Department Name: Fac of Engineering and Environment

Abstract

An evacuation drill is a pre-planned simulation of an emergency evacuation for a specific scenario, with the aim of improving the performance of occupants and staff involved. Although drills are informed by safety legislation and building codes, their merits are still not well-understood, and their impact on evacuation performance not well-characterized. However, they are still seen as a key component of safety planning/building certification.

There are significant issues with evacuation drills, as currently executed:
1. The effectiveness of the evacuation drill model is not well understood.
2. Drills carry both an inherent risk to participants, and a significant cost (in terms of temporary loss of building functionality).
3. Sub-populations are often excluded from drills (e.g., those with medical issues, or mission-critical staff), which affect the potential for training and assessment.

However, the availability of new approaches/technologies such as augmented/virtual reality, computational simulation, smart sensors, building intelligence and video analytics means that we have an unprecedented opportunity to enhance the way that we plan, deliver and analyze the results of evacuation drills or complementary activities. This allows us to disentangle the training benefits and assessment of drill effectiveness, following a case-control approach comparable to research practices in evidence-based medicine - pushing towards evidence-based evacuation drills.

Here, we explore new technologies, methodologies and perspectives to (a) enhance the training component of evacuation drills (ED), (b) improve the analysis and interpretation of their results, and (c) reduce both short-term risk to participants and operational disruption. NEED will establish a consortium of experts in evacuation dynamics, fire safety, immersive tech, data science, artificial intelligence, and computational simulation, to focus on these questions:

1. What are the main training limitations of current ED?
2. What are the main assessment limitations of current ED?
3. How do these limitations vary across the buildings and populations that are subject to ED?
4. What are the alternative approaches for drill training and assessment?
5. What are the major benefits of the alternative approaches identified? How can they be quantified?
6. What are the challenges (regulatory, public perception, technical, cost etc.) in adopting such alternatives?
7. What are the next steps for ensuring these challenges are further addressed through collaboration between UK and Canadian partners?

Publications

10 25 50
 
Description An evacuation drill (ED) is a pre-planned simulation of an emergency evacuation given a specific scenario. This is conducted to assess the evacuation procedure, and to directly or indirectly improve the performance of occupants and staff involved; training benefits derived from participation or observation may also lead to procedural enhancements. Although EDs are informed by a range of safety legislation and building codes, their merits are still not well-understood (given limitations in how they are conducted and how they are observed), and their impact on evacuation performance is not well-characterized. However, they are still seen by many parties as a key component of safety planning/building certification.

The availability of new approaches and technologies such as augmented/virtual reality , computational simulation, smart sensors/building intelligence and video analytics means that we now have an unprecedented opportunity to enhance the way that we plan, deliver, observe and analyze the results of evacuation drills or complementary activities, and to improve evacuation performance (and the assessment of such). This allows us to disentangle the training benefits and assessment of drill effectiveness, by following a case-control approach comparable to research practices in evidence-based medicine. The ultimate goal is to move towards a position where evidence-based evacuation drills are the norm.

In this project, we explored new technologies, methodologies and perspectives to (1) enhance the training component of evacuation drills, (2) improve the analysis and interpretation of their results, and (3) reduce both short-term risk to participants and operational disruption. Working towards these objectives may bring a range of beneficial outcomes, such as potentially reducing costs, improving training effectiveness and allowing more fine grained assessment of occupant behavior.

The core novel contributions of the project were (1) a comprehensive review of the current state-of-the-art in evacuation drills (in terms of both theoretical research and practical implementation), (2) the development of a robust set of criteria for assessing approaches to evacuation drills, based on a community consultation exercise, and (3) a new framework for comparing the costs/benefits of different approaches against these criteria to aid the selection and practical implementation of such approaches.
Exploitation Route This works provides a foundation for future work, which might include attempts to:

(1) Establish an evidence-based methodology (case-control approach) for assessing evacuation drills and alternatives; i.e. to measure the effectiveness of different approaches in a methodical manner.
(2) Harness novel objective and automatable approaches to data capture and analytics to better characterize performance (using smart sensors, artificial intelligence, computer vision, and machine learning).
(3) Develop alternatives to the current drill model, based on emerging immersive / simulation technologies (e.g., virtual / augmented reality) that specifically target the limitations of traditional EDs, and compare its performance to the status quo.
(4) Develop guidance for regulatory bodies on the application and cost-benefits of each approach (e.g., relative performance gain, loss of individual / building time) for different scenarios.
Sectors Construction,Digital/Communication/Information Technologies (including Software),Retail,Transport

URL https://nrc-publications.canada.ca/eng/view/object/?id=d9cffa69-69dc-4190-8e16-4de4d348c49a