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January 11, 2012

USU Research Project of the Month (Awarded November 2011)

Experimental Research on Pedestrian and Evacuation Behaviors of Individuals with Disabilities; Theory Development Necessary to Characterize Individual-Based Models

Keith Christensen
Anthony Chen
YongSeog, Kim
Yangquan Chen

PROJECT ABSTRACT

While individuals with disabilities are a significant portion of the population (i.e.,16.7% of the total population of the United States), little is understood concerning the effect of various built environment and evacuation policies on individuals with disabilities and there continues to be virtually no empirical data on the safe and efficient evacuation of persons with disabilities in emergencies. The purpose of this study is to measure and collect the pedestrian and evacuation behaviors of individuals with mobility-related disabilities through a series of the controlled and evacuation experiments using a new RFID technology complemented by video tracking methods. The results will be both microscopic and macroscopic evacuation behavior data sets necessary for the development of well-characterized individual-based theories and models which reflect the observed patterns of evacuation behavior of a diverse population. The research objectives are:

  1. Develop automated methods for measuring pedestrian trajectories in both controlled built and evacuation environments using RFID and video tracking technologies.
  2. Collect the pedestrian behavior data of individuals with mobility-related disabilities by experimentally observing and measuring key behaviors in controlled built environments.
  3. Collect the evacuation behavior data of individuals with mobility-related disabilities by observing and measuring key behaviors in realistic evacuation environment.
  4. Calibrate macroscopic pedestrian flow relationships and evacuation curves from the microscopic pedestrian trajectories that are necessary for building credible and valid pedestrian and evacuation models. ?

To accomplish the research objectives, the research is divided into three phases. First, the research team will develop, implement, and test automated methods for measuring pedestrian trajectories in the built evacuation environment using RFID and video tracking technologies.

Second, the research team will conduct a series of controlled experiments to measure and collect the pedestrian behavior of individuals with mobility-related disabilities or conditions in built evacuation environments. The extent to which the variables are affected by components of the built evacuation environment and pedestrian density will be examined and summarized into speed/density and flow/density curves reflecting built environment characteristics, subpopulations of individuals with mobility-related disabilities, and heterogeneous populations. The study participants will be individuals between 21 and 74 years of age with mobility-related physical, sensory, and ‘Go-Outside-Home’ disabilities in demographically appropriate levels.

Third, as a proof of concept, a series of staged evacuations will be conducted to measure the evacuation behavior of individuals with mobility-related disabilities in an environment reflecting current and proposed Americans with Disabilities Act provisions for egress.
The study will be conducted by a unique interdisciplinary collaboration of Utah State University researchers from the Center for Persons with Disabilities, the Center for Self- Organizing and Intelligent Systems, Landscape Architecture, Transportation Engineering, and Management Information Systems. Each will contribute their expertise in working with individuals with disabilities, automated RFID and video tracking/measurement, the built environment, individual-based modeling, and data mining and analysis. The results will increase the depth and breadth of our understanding for the development of robust and well-characterized individual-based models of pedestrian and evacuation behaviors that match observed patterns of individuals who are disabled in mainstream emergency management initiatives.

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