Environmental science

FIR 4306, Human Behavior in Fire 1

Course Learning Outcomes for Unit VII Upon completion of this unit, students should be able to:

1. Explain how building evacuation models work. 2. Explain the use of building evacuation models. 3. Explain how building evacuation models can be improved. 4. Discuss the theory of occupant behavior during building fires.

Reading Assignment Kuligowski, E.D., (2008). Modeling human behavior during building fires (NIST Technical Note 1619).

Washington DC: United States of America Department of Commerce. Retrieved from http://fire.nist.gov/bfrlpubs/fire09/art018.html

In order to access the resources below, you must first log into the myCSU Student Portal and access the ABI/Inform Complete database within the CSU Online Library. Kuligowski, E. (2013, 01). Predicting human behavior during fires. Fire Technology, 49, 101-120. Wales, D., & Thompson, O. F. (2013). Human behaviour in fire: Should the fire service stop telling and start

listening? International Journal of Emergency Services, 2(2), 94-103.

Unit Lesson Have you ever been in a public building like a hotel or office building when a fire alarm goes off? What is your first response? Do you immediately head to the exit, or do you stop and gather your things? Maybe you hesitate or talk to others to see if the alarm is really a drill or a serious situation. What about the evacuation maps located in hotels and public buildings? When you check into a hotel, do you take the time to locate the emergency exits? Do you calculate how long it would take you and your family to evacuate a hotel if a fire were to break out? Emergency personnel, researchers, and other professionals use evacuation models to determine escape routes in an emergency, but do they take all the factors necessary into account for an accurate prediction of evacuation procedures? This unit looks at how evacuation models work, how they are used, and how evacuation models can be improved by taking occupant behavior into account during fires. Evacuation models can be used to evaluate a level of safety provided by buildings during evacuations. Most evacuation models focus on calculating and predicting evacuation movements. The calculations can be conducted through engineering programs and in some case through hand calculation. The problem in a lot of situations is that these models typically ignore the predictions of behaviors of occupants or make wrong assumptions about occupant behavior. A solution to this challenge is to generate a robust, comprehensive and validated theory on human behavior during evacuation of building fires. Research on fire injuries and deaths shows that two-thirds of injured victims and fatalities could have been evacuated (Kuligowski, 2008). In what way do building evacuation models work? Evacuation models quantify evacuation performance by calculating how long it takes for occupants to evacuate a building (Kuligowski, 2008). The model attempts to simulate two things, the actions occupants participate in and how long it takes to perform these actions. For example, evacuation models can offer floor clearing times and locate congestion points showing how people may converge together and form cluster in halls or stairways. Along with specific evacuation movements, occupants may partake in a variety of other activities during evacuation that can hinder arrival to a safe location. Occupants may take the time to gather personal items, assist fellow occupants, or help put out a fire.


Modeling Human Behavior During Building Fires

FIR 4306, Human Behavior in Fire 2

There are typically two methods used to account for occupant behavior during building evacuation. One method is for the user to assign a time period of delay or waiting to individuals or groups. Another method is for the user to assign a specific behavior itinerary of actions or specific action to an individual or group (Kuligowski, 2008). There are problems with the approaches that models use to simulate the behaviors during evacuation. First, no behavior is actually predicted by the models. Behavioral information is provided based on prior, pre-programmed assumptions. Behavior is determined by the user or the model based on prescribed information and in turn, can have a design or user bias built in (Kuligowski, 2008). Experimental projects rely on evaluation, especially in situations where real-time data is not available or conditions cannot easily be investigated. Evacuation models can also be used in incident recreation projects. The models in these situations help investigators determine why a situation happened, why a fire resulted in so many fatalities, or why there was a problem with the evacuation method. It may also answer questions related to the specific incidents. Model users are likely to be fire investigators, researchers, engineers, and/or consultants (Kuligowski, 2008). It is important that a theory takes into account the range of behaviors of those involved in a building fire. Occupants respond in a variety of ways based on the different cues presented to them. Even when occupants are presented with the same cues, they are likely to act differently (Kuligowski, 2008). This is because humans are individuals and will react differently based on their past experience, what they perceive is happening around them in relationship to the fire, and how they view the risks involved during the situation. All of these issues help determine the ultimate decisions that will be made as to the next steps to take during the fire situation. A conceptual model of behavior process for building fires has four phases. These are: perception of the cues, interpretation of the cues, situation, and risk, decision-making, and actions. Engineers, fire fighters, and even psychologists and sociologists need to work together to create authentic and true-to-life evacuation models. These accurate models should allow emergency personnel to make more informed decisions during a rescue attempt, and provide occupants with a higher chance to reach safety during a building fire.

Reference Kuligowski, E. D., (2008). Modeling human behavior during building fires (NIST Technical Note 1619).

Washington DC: United States of America Department of Commerce.

Learning Activities (Non-Graded) If you chose to create a blog in Unit III, take the time now to update it one last time. Discuss the topics in this course that you believe will help you in your professional career. Describe a behavior change in yourself that may have occurred based on what you have learned during this course. If you choose, email your instructor, reminding them of your blog site address and let them know you have updated your blog. Non-graded Learning Activities are provided to aid students in their course of study. You do not have to submit them. If you have questions, contact your instructor for further guidance and information.

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