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A Review of Building Evacuation Models



Erica D. Kuligowski, Richard D. Peacock


Evacuation calculations are increasingly becoming a part of performance-based analyses to assess the level of life safety provided in buildings. In some cases, engineers are using back-of-the-envelope (hand) calculation to assess life safety, and in others, evacuation models are being used. Hand calculations usually follow the equations given in the Emergency Movement Chapter of the Society of Fire Protection Engineers (SFPE) Handbook to calculate mass flow evacuation from any height of building. The occupants are assumed to be standing at the doorway to the stair on each floor as soon as the evacuation begins. The calculation focuses mainly on points of constriction throughout the building (commonly the door to the outside) and calculates the time for the occupants to flow past these points and to the outside. To achieve a more realistic evacuation calculation, engineers have been looking to evacuation computer models to assess a building's life safety. Currently, there are a number of evacuation models to choose from, each with unique characteristics and specialties. The purpose of this paper is to provide a comprehensive model review of 31 current evacuation models for current and potential model users. With this information, a user can select the model or models appropriate for his/her design.
Technical Note (NIST TN) - 1633
Report Number


evacuation, egress, evacuation models, human behavior


Kuligowski, E. and Peacock, R. (2005), A Review of Building Evacuation Models, Technical Note (NIST TN), National Institute of Standards and Technology, Gaithersburg, MD, [online], (Accessed July 16, 2024)


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Created July 1, 2005, Updated June 2, 2021