Interim Report: Flashing Lights for Road Tunnel Emergency Exit Portals - A Virtual Reality Experiment

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A virtual reality (VR) experiment with 96 participants was carried out to provide recommendations on the design of flashing lights on emergency exit portals for road tunnel emergency evacuation. The experiment was carried out in a Cave Automatic Virtual Environment (CAVE) laboratory at Lund University. A set of variables has been investigated, namely 1) Colour of flashing lights, 2) Flashing rate, 3) The type of light source, 4) the number and layout of the lights on the portal (1 light on top of the exit door, 3 lights of which 1 on top and 2 on the sides of the exit door, or 2 bars on the sides of the exit door). An additional portal design variable has also been investigated, i.e. 5) the use of a window vs a painted running man on the exit door. Participants were immersed in a VR road tunnel emergency evacuation scenario and they were then asked to rank different portal designs using a questionnaire based on the Theory of Affordances. Results show that green or white flashing lights perform better than blue lights in the emergency exit portals. Flashing rate of 1 Hz and 4 Hz performed better than flashing rates at 0.5 Hz. A LED light source performed better than single and double strobe lights. Although the three layouts of the lights under consideration performed similarly, the use of a higher number of lights is deemed to be beneficial. If the door is visible (i.e., if no smoke is taken into consideration in the emergency scenario), the scenario with the running man painted on the door provides equal results than a door with a window. Nevertheless, the use of the window is recommended since it allows seeing behind the door (including the possibility to see the traffic), and reduce people’s hesitation.
Original languageEnglish
PublisherDepartment of Fire Safety Engineering and Systems Safety, Lund University
Number of pages15
Publication statusPublished - 2014

Publication series


Subject classification (UKÄ)

  • Building Technologies


  • Emergency evacuation
  • tunnel evacuation
  • flashing lights
  • Theory of Affordances
  • way-finding
  • notification
  • emergency exit
  • system design


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