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Headlines Published on 26 October 2010

Title EU funds research for better evacuation and protection procedures

Survivors of the terrorism bombings that took place in London on 7 July 2005 should contact UK-based researcher Ed Galea, who wants to use their experiences to help improve building designs and evacuation procedures around the world. The research study is funded in part by the BESECU ('Human behaviour in crisis situations: a cross cultural investigation to tailor security-related communication') project, which has received more than EUR 2 million under the Security Theme of the EU's Seventh Framework Programme (FP7).

Emergency services in action © Shutterstock
Emergency services in action
© Shutterstock

Professor Ed Galea, founding Director of the Fire Safety Engineering Group (FSEG) at the University of Greenwich in the UK, studied in the past the behaviour of people who experienced major disasters, including those who escaped from the World Trade Centre in the US on 11 September 2001, plane crashes and the rail disaster in Paddington in the UK. The results of his work are already being used by architects, engineers and emergency services internationally. Professor Galea now wants to talk to people who were evacuated from trains, stations and buildings in London on 7 July.

'It is only by talking to survivors that we can really understand how people react to a crisis and significant dangers in the real world,' Professor Galea said. 'Then we can improve the design of buildings and all forms of public transport, and their evacuation procedures, to save lives.'

He said it was important to highlight that 'Hollywood films consistently get it wrong', noting that inaccuracies seen on the big screen 'tend to shape the way many people even safety professionals believe people actually react in emergency situations'.

During the inquests, the question was raised as to whether some victims could have been saved if paramedics and other emergency service personnel had been able to gain access to the crisis area more quickly. Professor Galea also highlighted the need to 'find out if people from different countries and cultures react differently in these crises, so that we can ensure cultural differences are incorporated into evacuation procedures and our modelling of building evacuation'.

Another strand of Professor Galea's research will be interviewing men and women who have experienced emergency evacuations during serious fires in public or domestic buildings. He cited recent fires like that in the Royal Marsden Hospital in Chelsea in 2008, the blaze in the Swan & Royal Hotel in Clitheroe in 2009, or the fire in Shirley Towers in Southampton in April of this year as the type of incident of interest.

He is also interested in speaking to people who have been affected since January 2000 by flooding severe enough to require calling the emergency services and the building to be evacuated. For example, the researchers want to hear from residents of various UK regions such as Grampian, Tayside and Cumbria, who experienced the disastrous floods of autumn 2009.

The BESECU project is investigating cross-cultural and ethnic differences of human behaviour in crisis situations to tailor security-related communication, instructions and procedures with a view to improving evacuation and protection.

The project partners believe their research will be useful to first responders, building designers and those involved in the development of emergency operating procedures for buildings.

Researchers involved in the BESECU project are from the Czech Republic, Germany, Poland, Sweden, Turkey and the UK.

More information:

  • University of Greenwich - BESECU
  • 'CHORIST project targets improved rescue safety and communication systems'

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