Fire Technology

, Volume 53, Issue 2, pp 845–871 | Cite as

Movement on Stairs During Building Evacuations

  • R. D. Peacock
  • P. A. Reneke
  • E. D. Kuligowski
  • C. R. Hagwood


The time that it takes an occupant population to reach safety when descending a stairwell during building evacuations is typically estimated by measureable engineering variables such as stair geometry, speed, density, and pre-observation delay. In turn, engineering models of building evacuation use these variables to predict the performance of egress systems for building design, emergency planning, or event reconstruction. As part of a program to better understand occupant movement and behavior during building emergencies, the Engineering Laboratory at the National Institute of Standards and Technology has collected stair movement data during fire drill evacuations of office and residential buildings. These data collections are intended to provide a better understanding of this principal building egress feature and develop a technical foundation for future codes and standards requirements. Fire drill evacuation data has been collected in 14 buildings (11 office buildings and 3 residential buildings) ranging from six to 62 stories in height that included a range of stair widths and occupant densities. A total of more than 22,000 individual measurements are included in the data set. This paper provides details of the data collected and an analysis of the data. The intention is to better understand movement during stairwell evacuations and provide data to test the predictive capability of building egress models. While mean and standard deviation of the distribution of movement speeds in the current study of 0.44 m/s ± 0.19 m/s are observed to be quite similar to the range of values in previous studies, mean local movement speeds as occupants traverse down the stairs are seen to vary widely within a given stairwell, ranging from 0.10 m/s ± 0.008 m/s to 1.7 m/s ± 0.13 m/s. These data provide confirmation of the adequacy of existing literature values typically used for occupant movement speeds and provide updated data for use in egress modeling or other engineering calculations.


Egress Evacuation Evacuation modeling Fire safety Human behavior 



Continuing support for egress-related efforts at NIST is via internal funding. In addition, support is provided by other agencies of the U. S. Federal Government, most notably the Public Buildings Service of the U. S. General Services Administration (GSA). GSA has funded key data collection efforts reported as part of this report. The support by GSA is gratefully acknowledged along with special thanks to David Frable for his efforts and support.


  1. 1.
    Hall JR, Jr. (2011) The total cost of fire in the United States. National Fire Protection Association, QuincyGoogle Scholar
  2. 2.
    Lord JB, Meacham B, Fahy R, Proulx G (2005) Guide for evaluating the predictive capabilities of computer egress models. National Institute of Standards and Technology, GaithersburgGoogle Scholar
  3. 3.
    Proulx G (2002) The evacuation timing. In: DiNenno PJ, Drysdate D, Beyler CL et al. (eds) The SFPE handbook of fire protection engineering. 3rd edn. Society of Fire Protectino Engineers, BethesdaGoogle Scholar
  4. 4.
    NIST (2009) Summary of the NIST/GSA cooperative research on the use of elevators during fire emergencies. National Institute of Standards and Technology, GaithersburgGoogle Scholar
  5. 5.
    Kuligowski ED, Hoskins BL (2012) Analysis of occupant behavior during a high-rise office building fire. In: Paper presented at the pedestrian and evacuation dynamics 2010, GaithersburgGoogle Scholar
  6. 6.
    Peacock RD, Hoskins BL, Kuligowski ED (2012) Overall and local movement speeds during fire drill evacuations in buildings up to 31 stories. Saf Sci 50(8):1655–1664. doi: 10.1016/j.ssci.2012.01.003 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. 7.
    Kuligowski ED, Peacock RD, Reneke PA, Wiess E, Hagwood CR, Overholt KJ, Elkin RP, Averill JD, Ronchi E, Hoskins BL, Spearpoint M (2014) Movement on stairs during building evacuations. National Institute of Standards and Technology, Gaithersburg. doi: 10.6028/NIST.TN.1839
  8. 8.
    Hoskins BL (2011) The effects of interactions and individual characteristics on egress down stairs. University of Maryland, College ParkGoogle Scholar
  9. 9.
    Predtechenskii VM, Milinskii AI (1978) Planning for foot traffic flow in buildings (trans: Sivaramakrishnan MM). Amerind Publishing Co., New DelhiGoogle Scholar
  10. 10.
    Pauls JL (1971) Evacuation drill held in the BC hydro building 26 June 1969. National Research Council Canada, OttawaGoogle Scholar
  11. 11.
    Fruin JJ (1987) Pedestrian planning and design. Revised Edition edn. Elevator World, MobileGoogle Scholar
  12. 12.
    Pauls JL, Jones BK (1980) Building evacuation: research methods and case studies. In: Cantor D (ed) Fires and human behaviour. Wiley, New York, pp 227–249Google Scholar
  13. 13.
    Khisty CJ (1985) Pedestrian flow characteristics on stairways during disaster evacuation. Trans Res Rec 1047:97–102Google Scholar
  14. 14.
    Boyce KE, Shields TJ, Silcock GWH (1999) Toward the characterization of building occupancies for fire safety engineering: capabilities of disabled people moving horizontally and on an incline. Fire Technol 35(1):51–67CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. 15.
    Tanaboriboon Y, Guyano JA (1991) Analysis of pedestrian movements in Bangkok. Trans Res Rec 1294:52–56Google Scholar
  16. 16.
    Frantzich H (1994) A model for performance-based design of escape routes (trans: Engineering DoF). Lund Institute of Technology, LundGoogle Scholar
  17. 17.
    Frantzich H (1996) Study of movement on stairs during evacuation using video analysis techniques (trans: Engineering DoF). Lund Institute of Technology, LundGoogle Scholar
  18. 18.
    Proulx G (1995) Evacuation time and movement in apartment buildings. Fire Saf J 24(3):229–246CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. 19.
    Proulx G, Latour JC, McLaurin JW, Pineau J, Hoffman LE, Laroche C (1995) Housing evacuation of mixed abilities occupants in highrise buildings. National Research Council Canada, OttawaGoogle Scholar
  20. 20.
    Proulx G, Kaufman A, Pineau J (1996) Evacuation times and movement in office buildings. National Research Council Canada, OttawaGoogle Scholar
  21. 21.
    Shields TJ, Boyce KE, Silcock GWH, Dunne B (1998) The impact of a wheelchair bound evacuee on the speed and flow of evacuees in a stairway during an uncontrolled unannounced evacuation. J Appl Fire Sci 7 (1):29–39CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. 22.
    Proulx G, Tiller DK, Kyle BR, Creak J (1999) Assessment of photoluminescent material during office occupant evacuation. National Research Council Canada, OttawaGoogle Scholar
  23. 23.
    Averill JD, Mileti DS, Peacock RD, Kuligowski ED, Groner H, Proulx G, Reneke PA, Nelson HE (2005) Occupant behavior, egress, and emergency communication. Federal building and fire safety investigation of the world trade center disaster. National Institute of Standards and Technology, GaithersburgGoogle Scholar
  24. 24.
    Averill JD, Peacock RD, Kuligowski ED (2013) Analysis of the evacuation of the world trade center towers on september 11, 2001. Fire Technol 49(1):37–63. doi: 10.1007/s10694-012-0260-2 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. 25.
    Galea ER, Hulse L, Day R, Siddiqui A, Sharp G (2009) The UK WTC 9/11 evacuation study: an overview of the methodologies employed and some analysis relating to fatigue, stair travel speeds and occupant response times. In: Paper presented at the Proceedings of the fourth international symposium on human behaviour in fire, CambridgeGoogle Scholar
  26. 26.
    Wright MS, Cook GK, Webber GMB (2001) The effects of smoke on people’s walking speeds using overhead lighting and wayguidance provision. In: Paper presented at the human behavior in fire, Proceedings of the second international symposium, CambrdgeGoogle Scholar
  27. 27.
    Shields TJ, Boyce KE, McConnell N (2009) The behaviour and evacuation experiences of WTC 9/11 evacuees with self-designated mobility impairments. Fire Safety J 44:881–893CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. 28.
    Fujiyama T, Tyler N (2004) An explicit study on walking speeds of pedestrians on stairs. In: Paper presented at the tenth international conference on mobility and transport for elderly and disabled people, HamamatsuGoogle Scholar
  29. 29.
    Proulx G, Bénichou N (2008) Evacuation movement in photoluminescent stairs. In: Paper presented at the pedestrian and evacuation dymanics 2008, WuppertalGoogle Scholar
  30. 30.
    Proulx G, Bénichou N, Hum JK, Restivo KN (2007) Evaluation of the effectiveness of different photoluminescent stair installations for the evacuation of office building occupants. National Research Council Canada, OttawaGoogle Scholar
  31. 31.
    Lee JYS, Lam WHK (2006) Variation of walking speeds on a unidirectional walkway and on a bidirectional stairway. Trans Res Rec 1982:122–131CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. 32.
    Hostikka S, Paloposki T, Rinne T, Saari J, Korhonen T, Heliövaara S (2007) Evacuation experiments in offices and public buildings. VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland, EspooGoogle Scholar
  33. 33.
    Proulx G (1999) Occupant response during a residential high-rise fire. Fire Mater 23:317–323CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. 34.
    Fahy R, Proulx G (2001) Toward creating a database on delay times to start evacuation and walking speeds for use in evacuation modelling. In: Human behaviour in fire, Proceedings of the 2nd international symposium, MIT, March 26–28, 2001. Interscience CommunicationsGoogle Scholar
  35. 35.
    Proulx G, Pineau J (1996) Differences in the evacuation behaviour of office and apartment building occupants. In: Paper presented at the Proceedings of the human factors and ergonomics society 40th annual meetingGoogle Scholar
  36. 36.
    Hoskins BL, Milke JA (2012) Differences in measurement methods for travel distance and area for estimates of occupant speed on stairs. Fire Saf J 48:49–57. doi: 10.1016/j.firesaf.2011.12.009 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. 37.
    Kratchman JA (2006) An investigation on the effects of firefighter counterflow and human behavior in a six-story building evacuation. University of Maryland, College ParkGoogle Scholar
  38. 38.
    Campbell CK (2012) Occupant merging behavior during egress from high rise buildings. University of Maryland, College ParkGoogle Scholar
  39. 39.
    Templer JA (1992) The staircase: studies of hazards, falls and safer design. MIT Press, CambridgeGoogle Scholar
  40. 40.
    Kuligowski ED, Mileti DS (2009) Modeling pre-evacuation delay by occupants in world trade center towers 1 and 2 on September 11, 2001. Fire Saf J 44(4):487–496. doi: 10.1016/j.firesaf.2008.10.001 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. 41.
    Pauls JL (1984) The movement of people in buildings and design solutions for means of egress. Fire Technol 20(1):27–47CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. 42.
    Melinek SJ, Booth S (1975) An analysis of evacuation times and the movement of crowds in buildings. Building Research Establishment, GarstonGoogle Scholar
  43. 43.
    Proulx G, Latour JC, McLaurin JW (1994) Housing evacuation of mixed abilities occupants. National Research Council Canada, OttawaGoogle Scholar
  44. 44.
    Pauls JL (2008) Demographic changes leading to deterioration of pedestrian capabilities affecting safety and crowd movement. In: Paper presented at the TRB 87th annual meeting compendium of papers DVD, Washington DC,Google Scholar
  45. 45.
    Corbetta A, Bruno L, Muntean A, Toschi F (2014) High statistics measurements of pedestrian dynamics. Transportation Research Procedia 2:96–104CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. 46.
    Nilsson D, Frantzich H (2011) Measurement techniques for unannounced evacuation experiments. In: Peacock RD, Kuligowski ED, Averill JD (eds) Pedestrian and evacuation dynamics. Springer, Boston pp 221–229. doi: 10.1007/978-1-4419-9725-8_20
  47. 47.
    Ronchi E, Reneke PA, Kuligowski ED, Peacock RD (2014) An analysis of evacuation travel paths on stair landings by means of conditional probabilities. Fire Saf J 65:30–40. doi: 10.1016/j.firesaf.2014.02.001 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. 48.
    Hoskins BL (2013) Adjusted density measurements methods on stairs. Fire Mater 39(4):323–334. doi: 10.1002/fam.2204 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. 49.
    Ronchi E, Norén J, Delin M, Kuklane K, Halder A, Arias S, Fridolf K (2015) Ascending evacuation in long stairways: physical exertion, walking speed, and behaviour (trans: Engineering DoFS). Report 3192. Lund University, LundGoogle Scholar
  50. 50.
    Ronchi E, Reneke PA, Peacock RD (2016) A conceptual fatigue-motivation model to represent pedestrian movement during stair evacuation. Appl Math Model 40(7–8):4380–4396MathSciNetCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. 51.
    Norén J, Delin M, Fridof K, Kuklane K, Halder A, Lundgren K, Ronchi E, Arias S (2015) Ascending stair evacuation: effect of fatigue, walking speed & human behaviour. In: Paper presented at the sixth international conference on human behaviour in fire, CambridgeGoogle Scholar
  52. 52.
    Ronchi E, Nilsson D (2013) Modelling total evacuatino strategies for high-rise buildings. Build Simul 7:73–87CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. 53.
    Kinsey MJ, Galea ER, Lawrence PJ (2011) Stairs or lifts?: a study of human factors associated with lift/elevator usage during evacuations using an online survey. In: Peacock RD, Kuligowski ED, Averill JD (eds) Pedestrian and evacuation dynamics. Springer, Boston, pp 627–636. doi: 10.1007/978-1-4419-9725-8_56
  54. 54.
    Leahy AP (2011) Observed trends in human behavior phenomena within high-rise stariwells. University of Maryland, College ParkGoogle Scholar
  55. 55.
    Boyce KE, Purser DA, Shields TJ (2012) Experimental studies to investigate merging behaviour in a staircase. Fire Mater 36:383–398. doi: 10.1002/fam.1091 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. 56.
    Galea ER, Sharp G, Lawrence PJ (2008) Investigating the representation of merging behavior at the floor-stair interface in computer simulations of multi-floor building evacuations. J Fire Prot Eng 18(4):291–316CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York (outside the USA) 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • R. D. Peacock
    • 1
  • P. A. Reneke
    • 1
  • E. D. Kuligowski
    • 1
  • C. R. Hagwood
    • 1
  1. 1.National Institute of Standards and TechnologyGaithersburgUSA

Personalised recommendations