The Variation of Pre-movement Time in Building Evacuation

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


In order to provide a reliable evacuation design assessment, data showing the variation in pre-movement time is of vital importance. The pre-movement time is in many cases regarded as the main time period during an evacuation assessment. Therefore, forty unannounced evacuation experiments for six different occupancies were analysed to quantify pre-movement time during building evacuation, i.e., the time taken between receiving the first cue and initiation of movement towards an exit during evacuation. The occupancies were office, cinema theatres, restaurants, department stores and night clubs. The occupancies were equipped with different types of evacuation alarm systems. The study resulted in 2486 data points for the pre-movement time. The pre-movement times were matched to statistical distributions to describe the variation. It was found that the pre-movement times in most cases could be represented with a lognormal or loglogistic distribution typically having a rapid initial increase representing the phase when people start reacting, which is followed by a less steep decrease representing the phase when some people linger before evacuating. Most reliable data are provided for the cinema theatre experiments which included 1954 data points from 30 experiments. The paper also presents a structure for performing an assessment of video recorded evacuation experiment determining actions, relevant time data and fitting a statistical distribution to the data. The new information provided in the paper can help fire safety professionals to more accurately predict the time to evacuate different premises.


External organisations
  • Canterbury University
  • Brandskyddslaget AB
  • Projektengagemang Sweden AB
Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Other Civil Engineering


  • Evacuation, Human behaviour, Pre-movement time, Recognition time, Response time
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2491-2513
JournalFire Technology
Issue number6
Early online date2019 Jul 12
Publication statusPublished - 2019
Publication categoryResearch