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Guidance for the Model Developer on Representing Human Behavior in Egress Models

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Structures are currently designed and typically constructed in accordance with prescriptive and performance-based methodologies to ensure a certain level of safety. The performance-based approach requires the quantification of both available safe egress time (ASET) and required safe egress time (RSET) to determine the degree of safety provided. This article focuses on the RSET side of the equation, for which an engineer would use some type of egress modelling approach to estimate evacuation performance. Often, simple engineering equations are applied to estimate the RSET value; however, over time, more sophisticated computational tools have appeared. Irrespective of the approach adopted, appropriate and accurate representation of human behavior in fire within these approaches is limited, mainly due to the lack of a comprehensive conceptual model of evacuee decision-making and behavior during fire emergencies. This article initially presents a set of behavioral statements that represent the primary elements of current understanding regarding evacuee behavior. Once presented, guidance is provided on how these behavioral statements might be incorporated by the model developer into an egress model. The intent here is to assist in the advancement of current egress models by outlining the model structures required to represent the current understanding of egress behavior.

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  1. Other approaches are employed, such as the objective-based approach adopted in Canada, although this approach is less frequently employed.

  2. Egress model is taken to mean any method by which egress performance is understood and/or quantified.

  3. Previously referred to as behavioral facts [3].

  4. This article does not address the interaction between the embedded and existing sub-models within the computational environment, or the range of verification and validation tasks that would be required to examine these interactions.

  5. The developer may also validate the conceptual model against the referrant material to ensure the accuracy of the assumptions made.

  6. The gap between current model development and expected behavior is most significant in locations where there is greatest dependency on the individual decision-making process; e.g. residential occupancies, as opposed to office occupancies where a formal evacuation procedure will exist and likely inform evacuation performance [17].

  7. These conceptual models have therefore been configured such that they can be implemented within a larger model structure. This may or may not have been the case with the conceptual models described earlier [66].


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The authors would like to thank Dr. Erica Kuligowski (NIST) for her input throughout the development of this article and for use of her original concepts. Gwynne would like to thank Aoife Hunt (University of Greenwich) for feedback during the development and review of this article. Gwynne would also like to thank Sefton Hyde-Clarke, Lisette Seguin, Ahmed Kashef (NRC); and Andrew Waite, Jason Driscoll and Inderjeet Ghataora (unaffiliated) for their input during the review process.

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Correspondence to S. M. V. Gwynne.

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Gwynne, S.M.V., Hulse, L.M. & Kinsey, M.J. Guidance for the Model Developer on Representing Human Behavior in Egress Models. Fire Technol 52, 775–800 (2016).

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