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Study of Occupant Behavior During the World Trade Center Evacuation: Preliminary Report of Results



R F. Fahy


On February 26, 1993, shortly after noon, a bomb exploded in a subterranean garage below the World Trade Center plaza in New York City. The explosions and subsequent fire caused extensive structural damage on several basement levels, interferred with the operation of the fire protection and other emergency systems and resulted in the evacuation of over 100,000 occupants of the complex. The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) and the National Research Council of Canada (NRC) undertook a research project, funded by the National Institute of Standards and Technology, the General Services Administration, NFPA and NRC, to study the human behavior of building occupants in this incident and to document, to the extent possible, those engineering details such as building design, fire safety features, and smoke spread, that effected behavior. The purpose of this project was to collect and preserve human behavior data. The information gathered will aid in the understanding of what people do in fires and why and how those actions may conform to or differ from the assumptions used in designing and planning for life safety in such a large building. Results will help in work toward the improvement of fire safety in similar occupancies and to enhance the knowledge needed in the development of emergency evacuation models.
Proceedings Title
International Conference on Fire Research and Engineering
Conference Dates
September 10-15, 1995


fire research, human factors engineering, evacuation, human behavior, smoke movement, fire alarm systems, bombs (ordnance), explosions, people movement, occupants, terrorists, terrorism, World Trade Center


Fahy, R. (1995), Study of Occupant Behavior During the World Trade Center Evacuation: Preliminary Report of Results, International Conference on Fire Research and Engineering, -1, [online], (Accessed June 22, 2024)


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Created September 10, 1995, Updated February 19, 2017