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Where drills differ from evacuations: A case study on Canadian buildings

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Abstract

Planned egress drills are required by building codes around the world, and are commonly used to both train occupants and assess evacuation procedures. However, capturing the idea of a “successful” drill is often difficult. Data from both drills and unplanned evacuations are often incomplete and unreliable, which raises a key question: How well-matched are planned egress drills and unplanned evacuations in terms of their properties and outcomes? That is, are drills a good model of evacuation? In this paper, we compare 93 planned egress drills and 23 unplanned evacuations, which occurred in Canadian office buildings over a span of four years. Our two main findings are that (1) planned egress drills differ from unplanned evacuations in terms of frequency, timing, and outcome (e.g., reported total evacuation time), and (2) the reported number of occupants correlates with total evacuation time. These findings motivate a discussion of the strengths and weaknesses of the current approach to data reporting, and we highlight potential implications for (and limitations of) the current drill model.

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... To address a portion of this question, Kinateder et al. [17] examined the differences in total evacuation times between evacuation drills and unplanned evacuation events. In their analysis of total evacuation times from 93 drills and 23 unplanned evacuations gathered from 49 office buildings between 2016-2019, they found that drills produced faster evacuation times compared with unplanned evacuations (by ~2 min on average), potentially limiting the use of drill data as a reasonable proxy for actual building events. ...
... In their analysis of total evacuation times from 93 drills and 23 unplanned evacuations gathered from 49 office buildings between 2016-2019, they found that drills produced faster evacuation times compared with unplanned evacuations (by ~2 min on average), potentially limiting the use of drill data as a reasonable proxy for actual building events. The authors, however, raise another important point; because drill and unplanned evacuation data are inconsistently measured and collected across events, it is unclear to extent to which the results from Kinateder et al. [17] are complicated by this issue. Missing from the literature are studies that examine evacuation times from drills and unplanned events from the same building conditions. ...
... Similarly, Proulx's study [28] of a high-rise apartment building fire (e.g., the Forest Laneway fire) noted average pre-evacuation delays of 10 mins for those who attempted to evacuate within the first hour whereas, evacuees from unannounced evacuation drills from mid-and high-rise apartment buildings delayed between 2.5 and 9.7 minutes (on average). Similar to the key message from Kinateder et al. [17], but focused on pre-evacuation times, these findings potentially question the use of pre-evacuation drill data in lieu of data from actual fires in a variety of building types, including library buildings. ...
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... This is based on the consideration that the EEW system provides up to about 1 min for people to leave their premises if needed. This advice is only given for those who are located up to a maximum 3rd floor, since evacuating from any floor above that would mean taking more time than there is to safely leave the building (as illustrated in other studies, where evacuation and drills are performed for purposes such as fire emergencies [46]). Nonetheless, there is substantial evidence available across scholarly and news media during earthquake drills, which has shown that individuals' protective actions largely constituted evacuation from their premises regardless of the floor they are located. ...
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