Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Stairwell Evacuation Study Finds 'What We Know We Don't Know'

Date:
March 29, 2009
Source:
National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST)
Summary:
Most of the time, we use the stairs in buildings -- especially in high-rise structures -- only as a back-up for faster elevators and escalators, but during a fire or other emergency, stairs become our primary passage to survival. In a new study, researchers examined what we know about how stairs work as an emergency evacuation route and found that the answer is... not nearly enough.

A new report concludes that research to date provides limited insight into how people react and behave during evacuations.
Credit: iStockphoto/Mike Panic

Most of the time, we use the stairs in buildings—especially in high-rise structures—only as a back-up for faster elevators and escalators, but during a fire or other emergency, stairs become our primary passage to survival. In a new study, researchers at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) examined what we know about how stairs work as an emergency evacuation route and found that the answer is—not nearly enough.

NIST researchers studied people movement speeds during three full-building fire drill evacuations and compared the data to already published results—including those from NIST’s investigation of the World Trade Center disaster on Sept. 11, 2001— to try to identify the factors that could hamper rapid evacuation using stairways. Their conclusions: research to date provides limited insight into how people react and behave during evacuations, and that for the most part, variances in speed cannot be explained by the evacuation models currently used in building design and emergency planning. Or as the title of the new NIST report acknowledges, “What we know we don’t know.”

Building engineers typically use five factors to describe occupant descent down stairwells during building evacuations: pre-evacuation delay, distance traveled during evacuation (movement from higher floors versus lower), counterflow situations (such as firefighters moving up a stairwell while occupants are moving down), stairwell geometry and density of persons in the stairwell. Models make use of such variables to predict the performance of egress systems and the expected speed for a complete evacuation.

However, the NIST researchers found that these engineering parameters could only explain about 13 percent of the differences they observed in evacuation speeds for the three fire drills. Since these speeds were similar to ones reported by previous studies, the researchers suggest that psychological and behavioral factors may be more important in determining how fast occupants can actually exit a building. They also note that inaccurate evacuation data based on simplifications about behavior could lead to unsafe building designs and procedures.

“Clearly,” the researchers state in the report, “there is a need to better understand all the factors that impact the ability of building occupants to take appropriate protective action in the event of a building emergency.”

As a start toward improving understanding, the NIST Building and Fire Research Laboratory has posted a Web page, http://www.fire.nist.gov/CDPUBS/bldg_occupant, with links to all four building occupant research studies completed in 2008, including the stairwell evacuation report Stairwell Evacuation from Buildings: What We Know We Don’t Know (NIST Technical Note 1624).


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). "Stairwell Evacuation Study Finds 'What We Know We Don't Know'." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 29 March 2009. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/03/090325132344.htm>.
National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). (2009, March 29). Stairwell Evacuation Study Finds 'What We Know We Don't Know'. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 23, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/03/090325132344.htm
National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). "Stairwell Evacuation Study Finds 'What We Know We Don't Know'." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/03/090325132344.htm (accessed July 23, 2014).

Share This




More Matter & Energy News

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Government Approves East Coast Oil Exploration

Government Approves East Coast Oil Exploration

AP (July 18, 2014) The Obama administration approved the use of sonic cannons to discover deposits under the ocean floor by shooting sound waves 100 times louder than a jet engine through waters shared by endangered whales and turtles. (July 18) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Sunken German U-Boat Clearly Visible For First Time

Sunken German U-Boat Clearly Visible For First Time

Newsy (July 18, 2014) The wreckage of the German submarine U-166 has become clearly visible for the first time since it was discovered in 2001. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Obama: U.S. Must Have "smartest Airports, Best Power Grid"

Obama: U.S. Must Have "smartest Airports, Best Power Grid"

Reuters - US Online Video (July 17, 2014) President Barak Obama stopped by at a lunch counter in Delaware before making remarks about boosting the nation's infrastructure. Mana Rabiee reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Crude Oil Prices Bounce Back After Falling Below $100 a Barrel

Crude Oil Prices Bounce Back After Falling Below $100 a Barrel

TheStreet (July 16, 2014) Oil Futures are bouncing back after tumbling below $100 a barrel for the first time since May yesterday. Jeff Grossman is the president of BRG Brokerage and trades at the NYMEX. Grossman tells TheStreet the Middle East is always a concern for oil traders. Oil prices were pushed down in recent weeks on Libya increasing its production. Supply disruptions in Iraq fading also contributed to prices falling. News from China's economic front showing a growth for the second quarter also calmed fears on its slowdown. Jeff Grossman talks to TheStreet's Susannah Lee on this and more on the Energy Department's Energy Information Administration (EIA) report. Video provided by TheStreet
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins