Accounting for human behaviour in emergency response

By Garry Kwok, National Technical Services Manager at Wormald

Wormald - fire safetyEmergency response is not immune to the idiosyncrasies of human behaviour.  Regardless of how much training is provided, it is almost impossible to predict how an individual will respond to an actual emergency, whether it is a fire, earthquake, natural disaster or accident.

While computational and engineering tools are necessary requirements for designing a building’s evacuation routes, the US National Institute of Standards and Technology has found these tools often fail to fully consider the impact of human behaviour.

Building and facility managers should consider how human drivers can affect the safe response to an emergency. This involves being mindful of the cognitive drivers that influence how long it may take occupants to begin evacuating the building and what exit route they may choose.

According to a study conducted  by the Mailman School of Public Health, which examined the evacuation decisions of the September 11th World Trade Centre tragedy, this may include factors such as an individual’s perceived ability to exit the building, previous evacuation experience, permission to leave and the information available to make a decision. Research also shows an evacuation decision is influenced by group dynamics. In a fire emergency, staff are more likely to follow their respected colleagues. Continue reading