NIST will develop best practices, guidance, and pre-standards for the design and performance prediction of building and community emergency systems through advances in understanding human behavior, movement of people, and building safety components and technologies. The purpose of this project is to maximize the cost-effectiveness of egress systems in new and existing construction.
Objective: To develop, by 2014, best practices, guidance, and pre-standards for the design of cost-effective building egress and communication systems and the improvement of models that can be used to accurately and efficiently predict evacuation behavior for performance-based analyses through advances in understanding human behavior, people movement, and building safety components and technologies.
What is the new technical idea? Innovative egress systems can mitigate the growing costs of fire protection features in building construction. Additionally, performance-based methods can not only maximize building design flexibility, but also minimize the cost of installed fire protection. Therefore, this project focuses on multiple aspects of life safety, including fundamentals of human behavior and people movement, to increase the cost-effectiveness of egress systems (including stairs and elevators) and improve the tools used to accurately predict the evacuation time of building occupants in performance-based analyses. The immediate focus will be on the movement of people in stairwell evacuations and human behavior during fire emergencies. In people movement, analysis of evacuation data will provide a quantitative basis for egress model development, use, and validation/verification as well as the foundation for changes to codes and standards. In human behavior, combining the vast body of knowledge in disciplines outside of the fire community with the extensive data set from building evacuations (e.g., the 2001 WTC disaster) will establish a foundation for explaining evacuation behaviors of occupants, which will improve the predictive capability of computer evacuation models. The project is directly aligned with the draft Strategic Roadmap for Reducing the Risk of Fire in Buildings and Communities under the “Improved Egress” approach.
What is the research plan? The primary data analysis effort in FY13 is focused on people movement on stairs, including the use of stair descent devices on stairs for people with mobility impairments. We will conclude analysis of egress data already collected to maximize evacuation efficiency of occupants on stairs in tall buildings. Presently, data from 14 building evacuations have been collected in buildings ranging from 6 to 62 stories and analysis of these data will be completed. By working with the NIST Statistics Group, relevant findings will be submitted to appropriate journals for publication, in preparation for FY14 proposals to codes and standards bodies, including NFPA 101 and the International Building Code. Additionally, completed datasets for all of the NIST observed building evacuations will be provided online (http://www.nist.gov/el/fire_research/egress.cfm) and efforts will be made to publicize this database.
With the conclusion of much of the egress stair research within the next two years, EL will focus our efforts on the development of a future roadmap for the Safety of Building Occupants Project. Stair movement in tall buildings represents only one piece of the larger egress problem, and efforts will be made to develop a prioritized egress project list and schedule based upon the larger Fire Research roadmap, current gaps in research and application, the expertise housed at NIST (both inside and outside of EL) and the potential for guest researchers in the future, and consultation with other behavioral researchers working in the fields of fires and disasters. The development of a large-scale community disaster evacuation model that couples both human behavior and environmental conditions (including toxicity) is one possibility for future direction of this project.
EL will also conduct efforts in egress model generation and validation. EL will continue development of the Egress Estimator, which calculates evacuation times using both stairs and elevators, to expand simulation and visualization capabilities. EL will begin verification and validation studies of the BETA 1.0 version of the human behavior simulation model incorporated into FDS+Evac in FY2012. EL will also continue development of a standard on verification and validation of egress models for submission to ASTM E05-33 committee on fire safety engineering and standards on toxicity and human movement through participation in ISO.
In other efforts related to human behavior and evacuation, EL will collect data, preferably via focus groups, on how persons with mobility impairments currently use elevators for evacuation and any concerns they may have on the use of these systems in order to develop guidance on evacuation procedures for elevators during fires. Finally, recommendations on emergency communication and building codes and standards will be made based upon qualitative data from survivors, injured, and fatalities in response to the Joplin, MO tornado investigation.
 In 2008, total fire burden $310 billion dollars (in 2008 dollars); building costs for fire protection were approximately $63 billion (Hall 2009).
 PBD has the potential to deliver over $7B in cost efficiencies (ABCB 2000).
 Reducing the Risk of Fire in Buildings and Communities: A Strategic Roadmap to Guide and Prioritize Research, NIST Special Publication 1130, April 2012.
 Kuligowski, E. D. and Peacock, R. D., “Building Occupant Egress Data,” NIST Report of Test FR 4024.
 Egress Estimator is the only freely available software tool that calculates the time required to evacuate a building by stairs (using SFPE Handbook movement on stairs equations), elevators (using Klote’s ELVAC model calculations), or a combination of both. The tool considers occupant loading and the capacity and number of stairs and elevators to be used for evacuation in a building.
 FDS+Evac is the evacuation simulation module of NIST’s Fire Dynamics Simulator (FDS). The software can be used to simulate people movement in evacuation situations.
 Focus groups require the development of a set of specific questions that will be asked of each group, and this protocol will require Paperwork Reduction Act (PRA) approval from OMB and NIST approval for research involving human subjects (a minimum of 3-6 months) before conducting.
Project staff serve on committees to develop standards for egress-related performance-based design procedures.
Project staff serve on committees to provide the technical foundation for codes that require the aforementioned standards.
 Kuligowski, E.D., “Predicting Human Behavior During Fires,” Fire Technology, available online October 4, 2011.
 Peacock, R.D., Hoskins, B.L., and Kuligowski, E.D., “Overall and Local Movement Speeds in Buildings up to 31 Stories,” Safety Science, available online February 4, 2012
 Butry, D.T., Chapman, R.E., Huang, A.L. and Thomas, D.S., “A Life-Cycle Cost Comparison of Exit Stairs and Occupant Evacuation Elevators in Tall Buildings,” Fire Technology, 48, 155-172, 2012
 Gwynne, S., Kuligowski, E., and Nilsson, D. “Representing Evacuation Behavior in Engineering Terms,” Journal of Fire Protection Engineering, 22(2), 133-150, 2012.
 Peacock, R. D., Averill, J.D., and E.D. Kuligowski, “Egress from the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001.” Accepted for publication in Fire Technology.
 Kuligowski, E. D., Peacock, R. D., and Averill, J. D. “Modeling the Evacuation of the World Trade Center Towers on September 11, 2001” Accepted for publication in Fire Technology.
 Averill, J.D., Peacock, R.D., and Kuligowski, E.D., "Analysis of the Evacuation of the World Trade Center Towers on September 11, 2001.” Accepted for publication in Fire Technology.
 Kuligowski, E.D., “The Significance of Pedestrian and Evacuation Dynamics.” Fire Technology, 48, 1-2 2012.
 Reneke, P.A., Tofilo, P., Peacock, R.D., and Hoskins, B.L., “Simple Estimates of Combined Stairwell / Elevator Egress in Buildings.” NIST Technical Note 1722, 2012.
 Kuligowski, E.D., Terror Defeated: Occupant Sensemaking, Decision-making and Protective Action in The 2001 World Trade Center Disaster, PhD Thesis, University of Colorado, 2011.
 Kuligowski, E.D., and Hoskins, B.L., Elevator Messaging Strategies, Fire Protection Research Foundation Technical Report, 2011.
 Robbins, A.P., Gwynne, S.M.V., and Kuligowski, E.D. 2012. “Proposed General Approach to Fire-Safety Scenarios” Technical Report, 2011.
 Gwynne, S.M.V., Kuligowski, E.D., and Spearpoint, M. 2012. “More Thoughts on Defaults” Keynote address at the 2012 Human Behavior in Fire Symposium.
 Kuligowski, E.D., “Evacuation of People with Disabilities on Stairs,” 2012 Human Behavior in Fire Symposium.
 Kuligowski, E.D., “Theory Building: An examination of the pre-evacuation period of the 2001 WTC Disaster.” 2012 Human Behavior in Fire Symposium.
 “Summary of NIST/GSA Cooperative Research on the Use of Elevators During Fire Emergencies.” Peacock, R. D., Editor, NIST TN 1620
 Peacock, R.D., Kuligowski, E.D., and Averill, J.D., Building Occupant Safety Research 2012, NIST Special Publication 1091-1, 2012.
 Kuligowski, E.D., “Occupant Sensemaking, Decision-making, and Protective Action in the 2001 WTC Disaster.” Submitted to a peer-reviewed journal
 RESNA stands for the Rehabilitation Engineering and Assistive Technology Society of North America
 In codes and standards efforts, NIST continues to actively participate with the ASME A17.1 task groups. Also, EL is involved in the Task Group for the Technical Committee ISO/TC 92, Fire safety, Subcommittee SC 4, Fire safety engineering. Work in this effort is geared toward establishing a linkage between the selection of fire scenarios and the selection of occupant behavioral scenarios in the production of a general approach to performance-based analyses.
NIST research on stairwell evacuation has included the study of simultaneous use of stairwells by occupants and firefighters. Photo credit: NIST
Start Date:October 1, 2011
Lead Organizational Unit:el
Related Programs and Projects:
Erica D. Kuligowski, Project Manager
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