Syllabus academic year 2010/2011
(Created 2010-07-25.)
Credits: 8. Grading scale: TH. Cycle: A (Second Cycle). Main field: Technology. Language of instruction: The course will be given in English. Compulsory for: MFST1. Course coordinator: Daniel Nilsson,, Fire Safety Engineering. The number of participants is limited to 35 Selection criteria: Credits awarded or credited within the study programme. Assessment: The final certificate is based on a written examination (individual work), report/presentation (group work), and laboratory exercise reports (group work).

The aim is that students should be able to understand and apply theories of human behaviour in fire, both fire setting and evacuation behaviour, after completion of the course. Student should furthermore recognize the importance of cultural and demographic factors for evacuation. The aim of the course is also that students are able to understand different egress modelling approaches and their limitations. In addition, students should understand and be able to apply relevant guidelines and regulations.

Knowledge and understanding
For a passing grade the student must

Skills and abilities
For a passing grade the student must

Judgement and approach
For a passing grade the student must

The course provides students with insight into theories of human behaviour in fires, both fire setting and evacuation behaviour, and computer modelling of evacuation. During the first part of the semester focus is placed on lectures and laboratory exercises. The material from the lectures will be included in the exam, which is held midway through the semester. During the second part of the semester the students focus on their group assignment, which is presented to fellow students and teachers at the final seminar.


The lectures focus mainly on theories of human behaviour in fire, but also cover egress models. In the first couple of lectures fire setting behaviour is looked at. Both psychological and environmental factors are examined and special focus is placed on fire setting by children. The following lectures focus on the evacuation process and associated theories/models as well as rules and regulations. These lectures cover such areas as RSET-models, the role-rule model, affiliation in emergencies, theory of affordances for exit design, help in emergencies and social influence. Ethics in relation to experiments with human participants (evacuation experiments) and the use of egress models is also briefly covered. The final set of lectures, which are closely linked to laboratory exercises, focus on egress models and hand calculations.

Laboratory exercises

Laboratory exercises are performed both in the laboratory and with computers. There are a total of four exercises in the course, namely one in the laboratory and three in computer rooms. The laboratory exercises are

i) LAB1 – Measurement of movement with video and laser scanners (laboratory)

ii) LAB2 – Analysis of evacuation experiments (computer room)

iii) LAB3 – Test of different modelling approaches (computer room)

iv) LAB4 – Test of egress models (computer room)

In the first laboratory exercise (LAB1) students measure movement of people using video cameras and laser scanners. Data from LAB1 and other existing evacuation experiments are then analysed in the second laboratory exercise (LAB2). In LAB2 the student produce correlations, e.g., speed-distance and pre-movement time distributions, which are used in subsequent laboratory exercises.

The third laboratory exercise (LAB3) focuses on different egress modelling approaches (network, grid and continuous models). Student use an easy-to-use programming platform to test the performance of different approaches for simple settings, e.g., flow of people thorough an opening. Distance maps and simple behaviour rules (inter-agent rules) are also tested. In the fourth and final laboratory exercise (LAB4) existing computer software, e.g., EVACNET4, Simulex and STEPS, are used to simulate evacuation from a building. Written reports are required for all laboratory exercises in the course.

Group assignment

Groups of between four and five students perform the group assignment. The aim of the assignment is to relate the theory from the lectures to a real fire accident. In the assignment the students independently look for information about a serious fire, e.g., accident reports, articles and results from computer simulations. Examples of appropriate fires are the Stardust disco fire, MGM Grand Las Vegas fire and the Gothenburg nightclub fire. Based on the information about the fire accident the students describe the evacuation process and relate the observed behaviour of occupants to theories of human behaviour in fires. The group assignment is presented both as a written report and an oral presentation. Students are also required to read the reports of other students and give them feedback.

Canter, D, Breaux, J, & Sime, J: Domestic, Multiple Occupancy, and Hospital Fires. In D. Canter (Ed.), Fire and Human Behaviour (pp. 117-136): John Whiley & Sons, Ltd. 1980.
Deutsch, M, & Gerard, H B: A study of normative and informational social influence upon individual judgement. The journal of abnormal and social psychology, 51, 629-636, 1955.
Hartson, H R: Cognitive, physical, sensory, and functional affordances in interaction design. Behaviour & Information Technology, 22(5), 315-338, 2003.
Helbing, D, & Molnár, P: Social force model for pedestrian dynamics. Physical Review E, 51(5), 4282-4286, 1995.
IES Simulex – simulation of occupant evacuation, Glasgow: Integrated Environmental Solutions Ltd. 2006.
Kisko, T M, Francis, R L & Nobel, C R: Evacnet4 User’s guide, Gainesville: University of Florida, 1998
Latané B & Darley L: The unresponsive bystander: Why doesn’t he help? New York: Meredith Corporation, 1970.
Mott MacDonald: STEPS – Simulation of Transient Evacuation and Pedestrian movementS – User Manual, Croydon: STEPS – Simulation Group – Transportation, Mott MacDonald, 2006.
Nilsson, D: Computer simulation of fire evacuation – an inventory of three approaches (to be translated from Swedish), Report 3142, Brandteknik: Lund, 2007.
Sime, J: Movement Towards the Familiar - Person and Place Affiliation in a Fire Entrapment Setting. Environment and Behaviour, 17(6), 697-724, 1985.