PhD in Fire Safety Engineering: Intelligent Egress

Supervisor: Dr Stephen Welch

Intelligent egress has been proposed as a novel approach to enhancing evacuations from fire emergencies by means of “way-finding” systems which exploit live information gathered from building sensors.  Under conventional approaches to evacuation, occupants are not normally provided with any aides to selecting egress path, and it is known typically follow the route they are most familiar with.  This can lead to inefficiencies and may also violate design assumptions on escape route utilisation, with an increase in overall evacuation times, thereby increasing the possibility that occupants may be exposed to unsafe conditions. 

But modern buildings are sensor rich, and there is great potential for exploiting knowledge of the progress of fire behaviour, the evolution of hazardous conditions, and occupant response derived from existing or dedicated monitoring systems.  Sensor-linked fire models have been successfully demonstrated in the FireGrid project.   Efficient route-planning was also examined from a theoretical point of view.  The potential for exploiting way-finding systems was highlighted in subsequent work by means of trial evacuations and simulation-based analyses.

The current project would seek to further advance intelligent egress systems by harnessing technologies to support the determination of efficient egress routes and effective transfer of information for diverse end users. Thus, technologies for occupant location monitoring, and associated privacy issues, will be examined. The practicalities of route-planning will also be revisited from the perspective of realistic occupant populations with mixed demographics. There will be engagement with potential end users, i.e. different types of occupants, and fire and rescue services, for development of appropriate mechanisms and content of information, encompassing the use of innovative technologies such as handheld and mobile devices. Issues related to the implications of mobility impairment and specific disabilities on egress will be investigated, including exploration of appropriate way-finding technologies and how these might be operated in conjunction with general-purpose evacuation systems.   The ultimate aspiration is to demonstrate the application of such systems in more realistic and complex scenarios, with diverse occupant populations – to be addressed by means of fully-coupled sensor-linked fire/egress models run in conjunction with full-scale trial evacuations, as required. Guidance and recommendations on use of such systems would be produced and widely disseminated.

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Initial informal enquiries may be made to Dr S Welch:

Funding Notes:

This PhD project is funded for Home UK (fees & stipend) or EU (fees only) students.

We are seeking a motivated candidate with a first or upper second class honours degree in a scientific discipline (e.g. engineering, mathematics or physical sciences) or from relevant social sciences such as psychology.

Some knowledge and experience of fire safety engineering or human behaviour in emergency scenarios would be advantageous but is not essential.  Ability in software development would also be valuable.

Please apply via the ‘Apply’ button below.

Select the Research Area: “Infrastructure and the Environment” and clearly state on your application form which project you are applying for and the supervisor.

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