The Impact of Social Distancing on Evacuations using Crowd Simulations

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

Abstract: During pandemics such as the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID19), some government agencies might recommend that citizens keep distance to other people when moving in public environments; this distance is often referred to as social distancing. Since social distancing limits how people are allowed to move in an environment, it could prove to become an obstacle during situations such as evacuations. This raises the question if social distancing has a noticeable impact on evacuation times. Evacuation scenarios have previously been researched by utilizing crowd simulations. Therefore, this study uses an agent based crowd simulator developed in Unity3D to investigate the effects of social distancing on the time taken to conduct orderly evacuations of classroom environments. The virtual environments used were modeled after two differently sized classrooms at The Royal Institute of Technology (KTH). The environments were modified with varying amounts of available exits and social distances between virtual agents in order to perform experiments. The results of the study indicate that increasing the degree of social distancing increases the evacuation time, whilst adding more exits reduces it. The significance of these changes in evacuation time are dependent on classroom size. The study concludes that although social distancing does increase evacuation time, the magnitude of the effect depends the previously mentioned environmental factors. 

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