Evacuation of stricken buildings and areas is a vital element of emergency response, where the task of moving people out of the danger zone as quickly and reliably as possible takes absolute priority.
The REPKA project uses mobile information systems to devise innovative approaches to planning and managing mass evacuations. The focus is on a scenario where a large crowd that has just left a building needs to be directed to safety.
The project is aimed at better planning and monitoring mass evacuations and managing them more adaptively. In this context, new mathematical models are being developed for simulation and optimization. Real-time data on crowd members’ positions is essential to realistic simulation and optimization models as well as to evaluating simulation results. Unless position information is continuously available, crowd management cannot be realistically simulated or optimized.
Positioning as a key element
The objective of Fraunhofer IIS’s research in connection with REPKA is to develop a robust positioning technology for use on handheld devices.
Accordingly, pedestrian flows will be monitored using a combination of wireless LAN positioning, satellite positioning (GPS) and positioning in wireless communication networks (GSM fingerprinting). This minimizes the risk of the entire system being rendered inoperative if one positioning method fails or is compromised.
As well as enabling realistic simulation and optimization, the positioning technology developed forms the basis of a personal guidance system for use by pedestrians during emergency evacuations.
Soccer stadium used as a basis for simulation
Based on data representing actual crowd movements captured at the Fritz Walter soccer stadium in Kaiserslautern, REPKA will verify and further develop simulations and scenarios needed for safe evacuation. In an emergency situation, up to 50,000 spectators will be in a frantic rush to reach their cars or catch a train, with the added risk of clashes between opposing supporters.
To determine what pedestrian flow patterns typically occur in an emergency, evacuation exercises are held as part of the project. The data thus collected provides a basis for simulation of mass evacuation scenarios.
A central feature of REPKA is a holistic approach that takes account of everybody involved. In parallel with the development of the system, social science research is being carried out to gauge acceptance of the new methods. The idea is to deliver innovation across the board rather than create a partial solution.
The German Ministry of Education and Research will be sponsoring REPKA for three years as part of a research program on civil protection. Project management: Mathematics Department, University of Kaiserslautern. Project partners: Arbeitskreis Notfallmanagement and Katastrophenschutz (working group on emergency management), Fraunhofer-Institute for Integrated Circuits IIS, IT2Media, Siemens.