Researchers at Commerce's National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) are stepping up the pace for designing safer building evacuations by releasing large, numerical data sets that track the movement of people on stairs during high-rise building evacuation drills. The data sets will ensure that architects, engineers, emergency planners and others involved in building design have a strong technical basis for safer, more cost-effective building evacuations.
“While stairs have been used in buildings for ages, there is little scientific understanding of how people use them,” explained NIST researcher Erica Kuligowski. “For example, we know little of how the width of the stair affects the flow rate, whether people grow fatigued as they descend from tall buildings, or how people merge into a crowded stairwell.”
Working with the Public Buildings Service at the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA), NIST researchers made video recordings of evacuation drills in stairwells at nine buildings ranging in height from six to 62 stories tall. The first data sets being released (available at www.nist.gov/bfrl/fire_research/building-occupant-evacuation.cfm ) come from four of the buildings and include movement information on more than 3,000 people. Other evacuation data will be posted on the NIST Web site as it becomes available. Read more