Lessons from the evacuation of the World Trade Center, Sept 11th 2001 for the future development of computer simulations

Johnson, C.W. (2005) Lessons from the evacuation of the World Trade Center, Sept 11th 2001 for the future development of computer simulations. Cognition, Technology and Work, 7(4), pp. 214-240. (doi:10.1007/s10111-005-0009-5)



Publisher's URL: http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s10111-005-0009-5


This paper provides an overview of the state of the art in evacuation simulations. These interactive computer based tools have been developed to help the owners and designers of large public buildings to assess the risks that occupants might face during emergency egress. The development of the Glasgow Evacuation Simulator is used to illustrate the existing generation of tools. This system uses Monte Carlo techniques to control individual and group movements during an evacuation. The end-user can interactively open and block emergency exits at any point. It is also possible to alter the priorities that individuals associate with particular exit routes. A final benefit is that the tool can derive evacuation simulations directly from existing architects models; this reduces the cost of simulations and creates a more prominent role for these tools in the iterative development of large-scale public buildings. Empirical studies have been used to validate the GES system as a tool to support evacuation training. The development of these tools has been informed by numerous human factors studies and by recent accident investigations. For example, the 2003 fire in the Station nightclub in Rhode Island illustrated the way in which most building occupants retrace their steps to an entrance even when there are alternate fire exits. The second half of this paper uses this introduction to criticise the existing state of the art in evacuation simulations. These criticisms are based on a detailed study of the recent findings from the 9/11 Commission (2004). Ten different lessons are identified. Some relate to the need to better understand the role of building management and security systems in controlling egress from public buildings. Others relate to the human factors involved in coordinating distributed groups of emergency personnel who may be physically exhausted by the demands of an evacuation. Arguably the most important findings centre on the need to model the ingress and egress of emergency personnel from these structures. The previous focus of nearly all-existing simulation tools has been on the evacuation of building occupants rather than on the safety of first responders1.

Item Type:Articles
Keywords:Accident analysis, Evacuation, Simulation, Human factors.
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Johnson, Professor Chris
Authors: Johnson, C.W.
Subjects:Q Science > QA Mathematics > QA75 Electronic computers. Computer science
College/School:College of Science and Engineering > School of Computing Science
Journal Name:Cognition, Technology and Work
Copyright Holders:Copyright © 2005 Springer
First Published:First published in Cognition, Technology and Work 7(4):214-240
Publisher Policy:Reproduced in accordance with the copyright policy of the publisher.

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