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Evacuation of People with Disabilities on Stairs



Erica D. Kuligowski, Bryan Hoskins, Richard D. Peacock, Emily A. Wiess


The time that it takes a population to reach safety when descending a stairwell during building evacuations is typically described by measureable engineering variables. These engineering variables include stairwell geometry, speed, density, and pre-evacuation delay. In turn, engineering models of building evacuation use these variables to predict the performance of egress systems for building design, emergency planning, and/or event reconstruction. To better understand occupant movement and behavior during building emergencies, the Engineering Laboratory at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) has been collecting stairwell movement data during fire drill evacuations of office and residential buildings. These data collections are intended to provide a better understanding of the principal building egress feature and develop a technical foundation for future codes and standards requirements. To date, NIST has collected fire drill evacuation data in 14 building occupancies ranging from 6 to 62 stories in height. This paper focuses on presenting data on occupant movement speeds during evacuation from an assisted living facility thirteen stories in height located on the East Coast of the U.S. The population of this building consisted of elderly and disabled residents that evacuated using the following methods: self-evacuation without assistance, assistance using a cane, assistance from another occupant or a fire fighter, or assistance using an evacuation chair. Data on movement speeds of these various groups are presented and compared with data from other studies of disabled and elderly populations. Average movement speeds in the current study of 0.20 to 0.42 m/s, depending upon the occupant group and evacuation assistance technique, are observed to similar to earlier studies that collected data on people with mobility impairments. ....
Conference Dates
September 18-21, 2012
Conference Location
Conference Title
2012 Human Behaviour in Fire Symposium


evacuation, egress, disabled, mobility impairments, evacuation models


Kuligowski, E. , Hoskins, B. , Peacock, R. and Wiess, E. (2012), Evacuation of People with Disabilities on Stairs, 2012 Human Behaviour in Fire Symposium, Cambridge, -1 (Accessed April 15, 2024)
Created September 18, 2012, Updated February 19, 2017