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Predicting Human Behavior during Fires



Erica D. Kuligowski


Evacuation models, including engineering hand calculations and computational tools, are used to evaluate the level of safety provided by buildings during evacuation. Building designs and occupant procedures are based on the results produced from these models, including evacuation time results (i.e., how long building occupants will take to evacuate a building). However, most evacuation models focus primarily on calculating and predicting evacuation movement (i.e., how long will it take an occupant to move from his/her initial position to safety), almost ignoring the prediction of behaviors that occupants perform before and during evacuation movement that can delay their safety (e.g., searching for information, fighting the fire, and helping others). Instead of modeling and predicting behavior of simulated occupants, evacuation models and users often make assumptions and simplifications about occupant behavior (i.e., what people do during evacuations) that can be unrealistic and are likely to produce inaccurate results. A solution to this problem is to generate a robust, comprehensive, and validated theory on human behavior during evacuation from building fires. The social scientific literature can be gleaned to develop these theories, which can then be incorporated into the current evacuation models to accurately simulate occupant behavior during fire evacuations. These models can then achieve more realistic results which will lead to safer, more efficient building design. The purpose of this paper is to reevaluate our current egress modeling techniques and advocate for the inclusion of a comprehensive conceptual model of occupant behavior during building fires. The paper begins by describing the current state of evacuation modeling of human behavior in fires and identifying gaps in current behavioral techniques. The second part of the paper outlines a general process model for occupant response to physical and social cues in a building fire event.
Fire Technology


fire, evacuation, egress, evacuation models, building fires


Kuligowski, E. (2011), Predicting Human Behavior during Fires, Fire Technology (Accessed June 13, 2024)


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Created October 4, 2011, Updated February 19, 2017