Simulating Effects of Agent Velocity Changes on Crowd Behavior During Fire Emergency Evacuations

University essay from KTH/Skolan för elektroteknik och datavetenskap (EECS)

Author: Charlie Mårtensson; Jacob Brännström; [2021]

Keywords: ;

Abstract: Fire emergencies are both deadly and difficult to accurately model in real life. Computer-simulated crowds provide a way to observe the possible outcome of a fire emergency evacuation without endangering real human subjects. However, many previous studies in this area do not account for the fact that evacuating people will not move at a constant velocity, but rather speed up to attempt to evade danger. The aim of this study is to explore how agents increasing their velocity when in close proximity to a fire threat affects the results of a simulated emergency evacuation from a classroom environment. Using the game engine Unity3D, simulations were conducted of evacuations from three different classrooms of varying size, accommodating a small, medium, and large number of seats, and a corresponding number of agents. A fire object, which could either remain stationary or propagate through the room, was placed in one of two different locations in each room: near the exit and in a corner far from the exits. For each possible configuration, simulations were run both with and without the ability for agents to dynamically increase their velocity. The evacuation times and number of fatalities were noted. The experiment showed that allowing agents to speed up when in proximity to a threat led to shorter evacuation times and fewer fatalities compared to when the agents were limited to moving at a constant velocity. This is at odds with real-life data, which has shown that attempts to move faster can result in slower evacuations due to crowding behavior. The discrepancy is likely a result of unrealistic modeling of the interpersonal friction, i.e. pushing behavior, between agents. However, clear differences were observed compared to the experiments with constant velocity, which showcases the importance of continuing this overlooked research area in the pursuit of creating true-to-life emergency simulations. 

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