Community Research and Development Information Service - CORDIS

Assisting emergency evacuations

Crowded transportation infrastructure can be deadly in emergencies. A software system is making evacuations smoother.
Assisting emergency evacuations
Public transportation is often the most efficient way to get around. In many cities, for example, millions of people commute daily using metro systems. Yet this advantage can also be a weakness. Public transportation often means huge numbers of people crowded together in confined spaces, often underground. Any disruption to the smooth flow can cause distress or panic, which alone can cause injuries or deaths. Such effects are exactly why those systems may be targets for terrorism.

Whether natural or man-made disasters, managing the evacuation of large numbers of people in crowded, unnatural spaces is an increasingly important issue.

The EU-funded project 'System and actions for vehicles and transportation hubs to support disaster mitigation and evacuation' (SAVE ME) addressed this challenge. SAVE ME is a computer management system that detects disaster events in public terminals and other transportation infrastructure (such as tunnels and bridges), providing optimal evacuation guidance to rescuers and the public. It works partly by monitoring movement behaviour, automatically detecting emergency indicators. It supplements this with decision-support software. SAVE ME assists everyone, but pays particular attention to those most vulnerable. The system aids rescuers with information that minimises the time they are exposed to danger. It is a generic system, adaptable to any transportation infrastructure context.

SAVE ME had a list of 14 technical and other objectives, most of which have been met. Overall, the system has been shown to make a difference, reducing the evacuation time for average travellers by up to 20 % and for vulnerable or less mobile passengers by 38 %.

Not only does the SAVE ME system work to aid evacuation as intended, the existence of such safety management systems helps with the design or redesign of transportation systems. For example, very few subway or tunnel systems can presently detect chemical or biological weapons. In many other ways, too, such systems are often inadequately prepared for attacks and other emergencies such as fire. Emergency management systems like SAVE ME can save lives, and their efficient response to disaster may even discourage attacks from taking place.

Related information

Subjects

Transport
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