Way finding during fire evacuation; an analysis of unannounced fire drills in a hotel at night

M. Kobes, I. Helsloot, B. de Vries, J. Post

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review

Abstract

Findings in earlier studies on fire evacuation and way finding suggest that building features have influence on evacuation behaviour. For example, way finding is believed to be strongly dependent on the lay-out of the building and seems to be hardly dependent on (escape) route signs. Though some aspects are investigated, it is not discussed at great length. In particular there is little insight in how persons find their escape route, and how this process can be supported with lay-out and design measures has been hardly examined. Thus, there is need for insight in the decision-making processes which evacuees pass through. In this paper are the results presented of 83 evacuation experiments in a hotel building at night. The main focus of the study is on way finding during fire evacuation. In the evacuation experiments we investigated the possible influence of smoke and low placed exit signs on the human fire response performance. The experiments are carried out with a traditional research method, namely the registration and evaluation of unannounced fire drills. The study is conducted as part of the validation of a new research method that makes use of serious gaming. The results of the study suggest that smoke has influence on the route choice: when no smoke is perceptible the majority of the participants escape via the main exit and when smoke blocks the route towards the main exit, the majority of the participants escape via the fire exit. Furthermore, low placed exit signs appear to have a positive influence on the use of the nearest fire exit. The personal feature of prior knowledge of the surroundings (or type of surroundings) is also found to have a positive influence on the use of the nearest fire exit. Self-assessments and interviews after a fire evacuation are found to be a disputable method for research on human behaviour in fire. A real-time observation of the people's behaviour during evacuation is considered to give more reliable results. © 2009 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)537-548
JournalBuilding and Environment
Volume45
Issue number3
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2010

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