Fire alarm in a public building: How do people evaluate information and choose evacuation exit?

Lars Benthorn, Håkan Frantzich

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How people react on fire alarm have been studied in retrospect as well as in experiments. In the present study, the choice of exit was examined with respect to the distance to exits and open or closed emergency exit. The second part covers the question on how the subjects think and react in a situation having a small fire in the escape route. The third part deals with some communication aspects regarding identification of signs. It is shown that the subjects prefer a familiar ordinary cash exit even if the distance is
longer to that exit than to the nearest emergency exit. However, if the emergency exit is open and the subjects can see the outside, the attractiveness becomes much higher for the emergency exit and most of the subjects choose the emergency exit.

The identification of alarm using a ring signal perceives often as a general warning or some kind of a conventional ring-signal such as telephone or school ring signal, and it is more seldom perceived as an evacuation signal. A spoken message, on the other hand, has a great impact on understanding what to do and gives a better and more appropriate behaviour for the evacuation of the building. The understanding of signs, important in a fire evacuation situation, is very good for signs such as emergency exit but rather low for signs not so frequently used, such as a sign for radioactive material.
Original languageEnglish
PublisherDepartment of Fire Safety Engineering and Systems Safety, Lund University
Number of pages36
Publication statusPublished - 1996

Publication series

ISSN (Print)1102-8246

Subject classification (UKÄ)

  • Building Technologies
  • Other Civil Engineering

Free keywords

  • fire alarm
  • signs
  • decision making
  • evaluation
  • risk perception
  • emotions
  • feelings
  • evacuation
  • Fire
  • distance to exit
  • exit choice


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