New research project on upward stair evacuation
It is becoming more and more popular to build underground facilities. Constantly growing cities and environmental concerns are, for example, two aspects, which to some extent can explain the increased number of underground transportation systems in urban and suburban areas around the world. Although these facilities offer some similarities to traditional buildings (above ground), there are also large differences, some of which need to be addressed in the fire safety design of these construction works. Among other things, people are often expected to be able to evacuate fairly long vertical distances through stairs. However, although research quite extensively have studied evacuation down stairs (in, for example, high-rise buildings), very little has been done considering upward stair evacuation. This have created a situation where stair evacuation assessments of underground facilities are associated with great uncertainties; there is both a lack of valid data and a lack of a valid method for carrying out the analysis.
Therefore, I coupled with Mattias Delin (consultant and business owner of DeBrand Sverige AB) and Johan Norén (consultant at Briab – Brand & Riskingenjörerna AB) in the end of 2012 and wrote an application to the Swedish Fire Research Board (Brandforsk), asking for money to study the topic in detail. We wanted to increase the understanding of upward stair evacuation in longer stairs, and to develop a new methodology for performing assessments of upward stair evacuation which is based on a mathematical model describing the walking speed and how it is affected by, for example, vertical distance. Having performed a brief literature study, we concluded that we also would need a physiologist with us in the project in order to be able to quantify the fatigue effect that we expect will arise during upward evacuation in long stair sections. So we asked Associate professor Kalev Kuklane if he wanted to join us. And he did!
The Swedish Fire Research Board decided to grant the application, but reserved their funding to 2/3 of the money that we initially applied for. Luckily, later this year the Swedish Transport Administration (Trafikverket) decided to fill in with the money that we lacked to get the research project going.
Officially, the project was initiated last month with Mattias and Johan starting with the work on the literature study, and today the first reference group meeting is arranged in Stockholm. People with a background as project leaders, consultants and regulators will attend the meeting and hopefully we will have a good discussion about the project, research questions, objectives, goals and focuses. As project leader, I strive to take the reference group’s competence and comments with me, and (to the extent it is possible within the framework of the project) implement it in the research that is to be carried out in the future. Among other things, we will perform stair evacuation experiments in two different stairwells next year, carried out both with individual participants and with groups. In these experiments, we will measure movement speeds, flows, work loads, as well as more qualitative aspects as movement lines, usage of handrails, etc.
If you want to know more about the project, feel free to contact me!