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Process of Human Behavior in Fires.

pdf icon Process of Human Behavior in Fires. (119 K)
Kuligowski, E. D.

NIST TN 1632; NIST Technical Note 1632; 15 p. May 2009.


human behavior; occupants; building fires; evacuation; human response; evacuation time; human performance


Evacuation models, including engineering hand calculations and computational tools, are used to calculate the time it takes to evacuate a building, which can then be used in an engineering safety analysis. However, there is a lack of available data and theory on occupant behavior for use by evacuation models to estimate evacuation time results and their uncertainty. In lieu of data and theory, evacuation models (and users) make assumptions and simplifications about occupant behavior, which can inappropriately characterize the time it actually takes to evacuate a building. In cases where assumptions lead to evacuation estimates that are either too optimistic or too conservative, buildings and procedures can be designed with either insufficient or unnecessary (and costly) egress routes and fire protection/notification systems. A solution to this problem is to generate theory on human behavior during evacuations from building fires that can be incorporated into evacuation models. Once this theory is robust, validated and incorporated into evacuation models, these tools can begin to predict occupant evacuation behavior rather than relying on the user to determine behavior before the simulation begins, as is now the case. In order to develop predictive theory of human behavior in fires, the factors that influence an occupant to take certain actions must be identified. Examples of actions taken during an evacuation include information seeking, milling, preparing for evacuation, and informing others. This paper briefly outlines the factors that influence an occupant to take actions during his/her evacuation and identifies future areas of research that are needed to develop a predictive behavioral (action-based) model of an evacuation during a building fire.