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Movement on Stairs During Building Evacuations



Richard D. Peacock, Paul A. Reneke, Erica D. Kuligowski, Robert C. Hagwood


The time that it takes an occupant population to reach safety when descending a stair during building evacuations is typically estimated by measureable engineering variables such as stair geometry, speed, stair density, and pre-observation delay. In turn, engineering models of building evacuation use these variables to predict the performance of egress systems for building design, emergency planning, or event reconstruction. As part of a program to better understand occupant movement and behavior during building emergencies, the National Institute of Standards and Technology has been collecting stair movement data during fire drill evacuations of office and residential buildings. These data collections are intended to provide a better understanding of this principal building egress feature and develop a technical foundation for future codes and standards requirements. NIST has collected fire drill evacuation data in 14 buildings (11 office buildings and 3 residential buildings) ranging from six to 62 stories in height that have included a range of stair widths and occupant densities. A total of more than 22000 individual measurements are included in the data set. This paper provides details of the data collected, an analysis of the data, and examples of the use of the data. The intention is to better understand movement during stair evacuations and provide data to test the predictive capability of building egress models. While mean movement speeds in the current study of 0.44 m/s ± 0.19 m/s are observed to be quite similar to the range of values in previous studies, mean local movement speeds as occupants traverse down the stairs are seen to vary widely within a given stair, ranging from 0.10 m/s ± 0.008 m/s to 1.7 m/s ± 0.13 m/s. These data provide confirmation of the adequacy of existing literature values typically used for occupant movement speeds and provide updated data for use in egress modeling or other engineering calculations.
Fire Technology


egress, evacuation, evacuation modeling, fire safety, human behavior


Peacock, R. , Reneke, P. , Kuligowski, E. and Hagwood, R. (2016), Movement on Stairs During Building Evacuations, Fire Technology, [online], (Accessed June 21, 2024)


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Created June 8, 2016, Updated November 10, 2018