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Obstacles Near Emergency Exits Speed Evacuation

Soulskill posted more than 5 years ago | from the george-carlin-would-agree dept.

Science 199

BuzzSkyline writes "Despite fire codes that require emergency exits be clear of obstacles, some types of obstacles actually speed evacuation. The counterintuitive conclusion resulted from a series of experiments performed at a TV studio in Japan. Researchers from the University of Tokyo asked 50 volunteers to exit the studio through a narrow door. Video tapes of the experiments show that people made it out quickest when a pole was placed about 30 degrees to one side of the exit. The lead researcher believes an obstacle reduces jamming and friction among people in crowds by decreasing conflicts as the crowd presses toward the exit. A paper describing the research is scheduled to appear in the journal Physical Review E in September, but a preprint is available on the Physics Arxiv."

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Old news (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29155957)

Keep your eyes open and you'll see plenty of real world applications of this principle already in place.

Re:Old news (5, Insightful)

Heed00 (1473203) | more than 5 years ago | (#29156037)

That doesn't make it old news. Can you provide evidence the principle has previously been articulated?

Perhaps next time you could provide some actual examples/citations/references rather than just effectively saying, "I knew that".

I've seen plenty of obstacles in place to route/control footfall traffic, but none that I can think of to speed up egress. You have examples of those?

Re:Old news (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29156107)

I'm looking. I distinctly remember a German TV science show which demonstrated the effect of an advertising column like obstruction in front of an emergency exit years ago.

There are also applications in storage silos for granulate in industrial settings, where nozzle designs use similar effects to reduce the number of jams.

Re:Old news (1)

chrisbtoo (41029) | more than 5 years ago | (#29156449)

I certainly remember seeing a TV programme in the UK about the phenomenon, and I haven't lived there for over 5 years.

Re:(very) Old news (1)

petes_PoV (912422) | more than 5 years ago | (#29156891)

Yes, the OP's correct this is well known. The programme I saw (again, in the UK) showed the effect of having a building's column designed near a fire exit. Everyone's first thought was "criminally stupid", until it was explained that this reduces the occupants' ability to crowd the exit, thus reducing the pressure from weight of bodies (live ones) thereby allowing more people out - rather than jammed in the exit.

Re:Old news (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29156857)

That doesn't make it old news. Can you provide evidence the principle has previously been articulated?

I'm not the original AC, but here is a link to a set of slides from the Technical University of Aachen (Germany), dated June 10th, 2002:

http://www.or.rwth-aachen.de/~fora/Veranstaltungen/Symposium/2002/VortragHermanns02.pdf [rwth-aachen.de]

It's in German, but look at page 5. The pictures speak for themselves. Above the right picture is written:

"Improvement: place a column in front of the exit."

The talk was given apparently by a guy from this company:
http://www.gts-systems.de/index.php?lang=english [gts-systems.de]

Re:Old news (1)

Heed00 (1473203) | more than 5 years ago | (#29157067)

Thanks for that. As well as to the others who posted following up (including the original AC).

Someone give this AC an informative cookie or two.

Research of evacuation jamming? (1)

Sumbius (1500703) | more than 5 years ago | (#29155961)

The University of Tokyo seems to have a research group for everything these days...

Re:Research of evacuation jamming? (3, Insightful)

mysidia (191772) | more than 5 years ago | (#29155997)

This is actually a lot more useful than much of the trivial research universities sometimes do.

Their findings can save lives...

Re:Research of evacuation jamming? (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29156081)

This is actually a lot more useful than much of the trivial research universities sometimes do.

Their findings can save lives...

Yeah but the people who like to be in huge crowds are probably the most average/sheeplike and thus not the best to try and save. Their lack of individuality makes them rather expendable because they are produced factory-style by the public schools and media, so there's plenty more where those came from. These are the same mindless helpless mouth-breathers who call up tech support and wait on hold to ask stupid questions that are answered in four places in the packaging and documentation. The people who wouldn't ever be in a big crowd to begin with, certainly not one so big that getting trampled by a stampede of panicky sheeple is a real risk, now THOSE are the ones we should worry about saving. The ones who aren't bubbly annoying extraverts with shallow conversation about pop culture that they imagine to be important and insightful. We might as well implement a little Darwinism because the low-hanging fruit of "but we can SAVE LIVES!" doesn't work out so well long-term. Ever seen Idiocracy?

Re:Research of evacuation jamming? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29156153)

Yeah but the people who like to be in huge crowds are probably the most average/sheeplike and thus not the best to try and save. Their lack of individuality makes them rather expendable because they are produced factory-style by the public schools and media, so there's plenty more where those came from. ...

This is fascinatingly antisocial garbage. Hacker conventions are held in large rooms with small exits all the time! So are industry trade shows, lectures... these people were studying populations of just 50 evacuees, which covers plenty of situations.

But I suppose Libertarians never congregate in groups, now do they?

Re:Research of evacuation jamming? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29156245)

But I suppose Libertarians never congregate in groups, now do they?

I don't, but couldn't possibly speak for the others.

Re:Research of evacuation jamming? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29156193)

http://xkcd.com/603/

Re:Research of evacuation jamming? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29156603)

I don't post much as AC - but parent's post bears thinking about at the least. No, I don't propose a Nazi approach to eugenics, but some people ARE more valuable to society and/or civilization than others. And, it's hard to imagine that those people are part of the sheeplike masses who are so predictable. Personally, I don't do crowds. If there is a line to get in a restaurant, I find an alternative because I don't like crowds. I don't do concerts. Don't do political rallies. Don't do sports events bigger than a little league or peewees game. Don't do traffic jams. Sounds like I'm claiming to be more valuable than the masses? Maybe. Could be I'm just prejudiced. But - any time I'm forced into a crowded situation, I'm extremely aware of the myriad catastrophes that could take place. Hmmmm. Is it possible that the blithely ignorant masses aren't worth rescuing? What would our friend, Charles Darwin, have to say on the subject? The libertarians would mostly agree that those masses are responsible for themselves. The liberals would have me believe that I'm somehow responsible for the stupidity of the masses. How about the conservatives? Food for thought, anyway.

Alright, those with moderator points, go ahead and flame me along with the parent post. I am politically incorrect. After modding me, why not head over to Google and check out "triage". Medical people already have guidelines in place to help decide who_to_save_and_who_not_to_save.

"It's been 1 hour, 1 minute since you last successfully posted a comment" FFS, fix that stupid shit, slashdot!!

Re:Research of evacuation jamming? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29156089)

Their findings can save lives...

The next time Godzilla tramples Tokyo I'm sure their evacuations will be so much more orderly.

Re:Research of evacuation jamming? (1)

Sumbius (1500703) | more than 5 years ago | (#29156109)

These little things are what makes bigger safety improvements possible. Still, there are things that have a bigger part in emergency exit safety. Cultural differences seem to have a big part in the success of speed evacuation. In some cultures we tend to see more people who run for their lives, thinking only for their own survival and push down those who are in their way. In some other parts of the world there are more people who try to keep order, try to form a line and wait their turn. (the Brits aboard the Titanic for example)

Re:Research of evacuation jamming? (4, Funny)

sentientbeing (688713) | more than 5 years ago | (#29157025)

I was at this casino minding my own business, and this guy came up to me and said, "You're gonna have to move, you're blocking a fire exit." As though if there was a fire, I wasn't gonna run.

If you're flammible and have legs, you are never blocking a fire exit.
[Mitch Hedberg]

Anonymous Coward (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29155977)

It's the woman on the pole that's causing the premature evacuation

Not realistic enough (4, Funny)

VMaN (164134) | more than 5 years ago | (#29155995)

I wonder if those volunteers were realistic enough.. They should have set the place on fire to see some face stomping, and in the long run maybe save lots of lives..

People act very irrationally when they are afraid of being burnt alive for some reason.

Re:Not realistic enough (1)

ThatsNotFunny (775189) | more than 5 years ago | (#29156095)

Fire, Shmire... Sic Godzilla on their asses!

Re:Not realistic enough (2, Insightful)

evanbd (210358) | more than 5 years ago | (#29156409)

You don't have to set the place on fire. It suffices to offer a monetary reward for getting out soon enough. Of course, you still have the problem of people hurting themselves / each other in the experiment, but that does show it's realistic enough for most purposes.

Re:Not realistic enough (3, Insightful)

0100010001010011 (652467) | more than 5 years ago | (#29156421)

Just do it for Money or Prizes. Heck set up these studies on Black Friday in Anytown USA.

1 Entrance to Walmart at 10 different locations. 5 with poles, 5 without. 2-50" Plasma TV's for $100 at each location...

Re:Not realistic enough (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29156551)

I've heard that one normally recruits people from local sport teams for these kind of trials. Competitive folks, who also tend to have good insurances.

Re:Not realistic enough (1)

TubeSteak (669689) | more than 5 years ago | (#29156779)

I wonder if those volunteers were realistic enough.. They should have set the place on fire to see some face stomping, and in the long run maybe save lots of lives..

On the one hand, this research is useful for crowd control.
Think stadiums, concerts, fairs, festivals, hotels etc.
(Though I can't imagine a hotel or concert hall would ruin their layout just for crowd control)

On the other hand...
"During the experiment, the team also found that people exiting in a single-file line were by far the most efficient. Yanagisawa said that the next step is to program models of people intelligent enough to self-organize into a line."

Which in the light of your "set the place on fire" comment makes me wonder if this is some sort of subtle humor on the researchers' part.
/besides the fact that queueing is almost entirely a product of the local/national culture.

Counterintuitive conclusions (4, Insightful)

Angst Badger (8636) | more than 5 years ago | (#29156011)

It's shocking that anyone in this day and age still finds it surprising when scientific experiments produce counterintuitive results. So-called intuition and common sense are usually nothing more than widely held but unquestioned assumptions. That people involved in software as much as Slashdot readers and contributors should be surprised is even more absurd. We ought to know well that intuitive interfaces are really familiar interfaces; the only really intuitive interface, as some wit once remarked, is the nipple.

In any case, knowledge unverified by scientific experimentation is not knowledge at all. If there is anything surprising here, it is that we made it all the way to 2009 before someone thought to conduct experiments on a matter as important to public safety as emergency exits.

Re:Counterintuitive conclusions (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29156083)

we made it all the way to 2009 before someone thought to conduct experiments on a matter as important to public safety as emergency exits.

Ahem. [google.de]

Also, would a "narrow door" meet the legal requirements of an emergency exit in most jurisdictions? Probably not.

Re:Counterintuitive conclusions (5, Informative)

d3ac0n (715594) | more than 5 years ago | (#29156137)

Actually though, if you give it a bit of thought, the result is not as counter-intuitive as you might think.

Basically, rather than having a flat wall with an exit that everyone bottlenecks up at, the pole acts as a "funnel wall" forcing people to line up earlier and more quickly. The same principle has been in use for hundreds of years with cattle and sheep. The "cattle gate" as we now call it, acts to slowly funnel stock animals into a single file line where they can be sheared, branded, loaded onto trucks, etc.

It just goes to show you that mammalian group behaviors are more universal than we might like to think.

Re:Counterintuitive conclusions (5, Interesting)

Miksa (300587) | more than 5 years ago | (#29156327)

I think the bus drivers in local traffic seem to have come up with the same solution. They usually drive a few meters past the bus stop, so most of the people have to walk beside the bus forming a line naturally before stepping in. Always makes you wonder why more people don't stand after the stop at the point where the bus door will be. Guess that's people for you.

Re:Counterintuitive conclusions (1)

arndawg (1468629) | more than 5 years ago | (#29156977)

Yeah i've noticed that. I usually get first on the buss even if i'm the last person to arrive at the buss stop :)

Re:Counterintuitive conclusions (1)

MindStalker (22827) | more than 5 years ago | (#29157055)

Then the driver would simply stop at an earlier point rather than a later point forcing everyone to walk backwards.

Re:Counterintuitive conclusions (1)

mysidia (191772) | more than 5 years ago | (#29156147)

It is a cognitive bias (prejudicial thinking) to believe something is true just because others believe it to be or because it's "common sense" or "makes sense"

Unfortunately, I think that to varying degrees, all humans might inherently suffer from this bias. People have to assume some things to survive, often decisions must be made quickly, extensive research cannot always be done up front, and we don't have enough time on earth to learn the whole truth about everything, different people have different interests.

So by having a 'common sense' about certain things, we have an answer that may be slightly off, but is "good enough" to survive on. And the people who study various subjects should hopefully correct any serious errors (eventually).

To the masses, anyone effective in repelling common sense (in one area or another) within a field where common-sense beliefs are especially strong could be deemed either genius [don't bother listening to them, you'll never understand], insane [cook, lock them up to stop them spreading these dangerous delusions], liar [can't trust them], or philosopher [don't bother, it's entirely an academic exercise].

Re:Counterintuitive conclusions (5, Funny)

causality (777677) | more than 5 years ago | (#29156157)

It's shocking that anyone in this day and age still finds it surprising when scientific experiments produce counterintuitive results.

Why is it shocking? Is it ... counter-intuitive for you?

Re:Counterintuitive conclusions (1)

ChienAndalu (1293930) | more than 5 years ago | (#29156201)

It's shocking that anyone in this day and age still finds it surprising when scientific experiments produce counterintuitive results.

I bet your intuition was different.

Re:Counterintuitive conclusions (1)

Kral_Blbec (1201285) | more than 5 years ago | (#29156217)

Actually to me it is very intuitive, for reasons other here have already pointed out.

Also, I would contest that common sense is "nothing more than widely held but unquestioned assumptions". I find it to be much more akin to what we currently call critical thinking. It is pathetic to me that its something we have to teach in schools, much less colleges, because so few people learn it naturally anymore.

Re:Counterintuitive conclusions (4, Funny)

Culture20 (968837) | more than 5 years ago | (#29156281)

the only really intuitive interface, as some wit once remarked, is the nipple.

And yet I've never seen one person try to suckle a laptop pointer-nub.

Re:Counterintuitive conclusions (4, Funny)

girlintraining (1395911) | more than 5 years ago | (#29156377)

the only really intuitive interface, as some wit once remarked, is the nipple.

And yet I've never seen one person try to suckle a laptop pointer-nub.

They were too busy with the joystick. :P~

Re:Counterintuitive conclusions (1)

DoofusOfDeath (636671) | more than 5 years ago | (#29156605)

the only really intuitive interface, as some wit once remarked, is the nipple.

And yet I've never seen one person try to suckle a laptop pointer-nub.

They were too busy with the joystick. :P~

You're lucky. I've seen a person too busy with a mouse.

Re:Counterintuitive conclusions (3, Funny)

girlintraining (1395911) | more than 5 years ago | (#29156649)

You're lucky. I've seen a person too busy with a mouse.

Yeah, but I've never seen a mouse with force feedback. XD

Re:Counterintuitive conclusions (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29156671)

Note to self: Never touch Richard Gere's mouse [snopes.com] .

Re:Counterintuitive conclusions (4, Informative)

Deadstick (535032) | more than 5 years ago | (#29156331)

If there is anything surprising here, it is that we made it all the way to 2009 before someone thought to conduct experiments on a matter as important to public safety as emergency exits.

We made it to 1942 before we even required emergency exits to open outward. Google "Cocoanut Grove Fire".

rj

Re:Counterintuitive conclusions (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29156339)

They should have tried the same experiment with 50 BLACK MEN, rather than 50 normal, decent Japanese people, who actually care about the people around them.

You can bet with 50 black men, it would turn into a mass brawl as each one of them tried to impose his will on everybody else...

The reason people have difficulty exiting buildings in fire is because most people are INCREDIBLY selfish and incapable of thinking about others, so they stand around immediately outside the exit, after getting out, after all, 'they're alright Jack'. And then others actually WALK OVER people who have fallen in front of them, rather than helping them up.

Just look at video footage of BLACKS storming into a shop during a sale, when somebody falls over, they couldn't care LESS - because that is how blacks are.

Now, rather than modding me down, anybody care to PROVE ME WRONG?

Good luck to your children, by the way - they're going to be living in the midst of a racial civil war, because you would rather THEY die, than you get called a nasty name... ('Racist', 'Racist', 'Racist'.)

Your children will hate you.

Re:Counterintuitive conclusions (5, Insightful)

RepelHistory (1082491) | more than 5 years ago | (#29156385)

In any case, knowledge unverified by scientific experimentation is not knowledge at all.

I'm for science as much as anyone on this site, but don't you think that's a bit of an exaggeration? You can't learn ANYTHING except through the scientific method?

So-called intuition and common sense are usually nothing more than widely held but unquestioned assumptions.

We DID actually evolve intuition for a reason. It's obviously not right all the time, but there's a reason why we're told to "go with our gut." Intuition is the means by which we pick up all those hundreds of subconscious signals that would otherwise slip by. It's kind of important.

Oh and one more thing while I'm on this tangent: the scientific method uses intuition as part of its process. All scientific experimentation begins with a hypothesis, and without intuition, scientists would be totally unable to come up with a hypothesis to test. Try it: using ONLY deduction, try to think of a hypothesis to test for an experiment. Sorry for the off-topic post, I juar felt like this needed addressing.

Re:Counterintuitive conclusions (4, Insightful)

Keebler71 (520908) | more than 5 years ago | (#29156397)

it's not counter-intuitive to anyone who has studied gas dynamics.... they've rediscovered the "nozzle" [wikipedia.org]

Re:Counterintuitive conclusions (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29156849)

it's not counter-intuitive to anyone who has studied gas dynamics.... they've rediscovered the "nozzle"

Fluid dynamics makes a lot of basic assumptions that do not apply to large crowds of humans.
Like the fact that we compress and most fluids do not.
Like the fact that we do not expand to fill the available space.
Like the fact that we can move under our own power.
etc etc etc.

Re:Counterintuitive conclusions (5, Insightful)

value_added (719364) | more than 5 years ago | (#29156635)

So-called intuition and common sense are usually nothing more than widely held but unquestioned assumptions ... We ought to know well that intuitive interfaces are really familiar interfaces; the only really intuitive interface, as some wit once remarked, is the nipple.

I'd suggest that anyone who is a pediatrician or has otherwise observed a new mother trying to teach her baby how to breast feed would classify the "nipple as intuitive interface" line as not only an unquestioned assumption, but also one that's wrong.

Put simply, the nipple, to use your terminology, is a familiar interface. The familiarity happens very early, and there's a wealth of factors that motivate it, but still it's something that's learned.

Not intuitive at all (1)

davidwr (791652) | more than 5 years ago | (#29156709)

OK, quick now, which will have more vehicles per hour getting through:

6 lanes of traffic squeezing down to 1 all at once, or 6 lanes of traffic taking away 1 lane every mile for 5 miles. Assume the traffic is light for 6 lanes but too much for 1 lane to handle without people waiting their turn, approximating a moderately-full venue when the fire alarms go off.

Why is the latter faster?

At each place where 1 lane is taken away, drivers in the lane going away and the adjacent lane take turns going ahead, with the other lanes going as fast as the traffic ahead will let them. With only 2 lanes contending for 1 each mile, things slow down but not nearly as bad as when 6 lanes suddenly shrink to 1, and all that taking-turns overhead rears its ugly head at a single choke point.

If you notice when you approach highway construction where more than one lane will disappear, they take away the lanes in stages, usually with some distance between each lane removal.

Experiment is not the only knowledge (1)

mdmkolbe (944892) | more than 5 years ago | (#29156829)

In any case, knowledge unverified by scientific experimentation is not knowledge at all.

Then I guess we don't really know that there infinite number of primes, or that that the one millionth digit of pi is 5, or that the American civil war happened, or that ... well you get the point.

Knowledge comes in many forms. Experiment is only one way to obtain it. It is a very powerful way, but it does have its limits and it most certainly isn't the only way.

Not really new (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29156013)

About 5 years ago when I was working with researches of behavior models and genetic algorithm (and others) based simulations, I was shown a demonstration of this very phenomenon. It wasn't a stick, or at a 30 degree angle, but a table placed in front of the door (like a reception desk at the entrance of an event).

Without the obstacle, people would rush to the door at once, creating a jam, slowing the actual exiting process. With the desk in the way, the people were forced to move to either end of the long table before they could get to the exit, in effect, creating 2 distinct exit points which worked to smooth the flow of people.

I can't remember if they said that it was based on a real life experiment or not, but it was actually very convincing.

Re:Not really new (1)

Idbar (1034346) | more than 5 years ago | (#29156131)

During a real emergency, I'd assume some people fail to think about consequences of their acts. Some only think about the fastest way to get out of the place.

At this moment, it comes to mind that someone would try to go over the table, someone will follow that person, and when the table breaks, then it going to be a mess

I've talked to several people that havin their mind clear know perfectly what to do, but failed to follow those steps in real situations. Some situations as simple as a mouse running around generate stress the causes people to do unexpected things.

Now I'm wondering if this "simulation" had real stiuations or people were simply informed of the drill.

but small exit ways can lead to death e2 nightclub (2, Informative)

Joe The Dragon (967727) | more than 5 years ago | (#29156017)

but small exit ways can lead to death like what happened at the e2 nightclub.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2003_E2_nightclub_stampede [wikipedia.org]

http://www.cnn.com/2003/US/Midwest/02/18/btsc.flock/ [cnn.com]

Re:but small exit ways can lead to death e2 nightc (1)

timeOday (582209) | more than 5 years ago | (#29156321)

It would be ridiculous to see this research as an indictment of fire codes as the summary (and GP) imply. OK, by tuning the exhaust manifold you can decrease backpressure a bit. That's nice. Maybe even counterintuitive. But it's not what fire codes about, which is stopping people from piling junk in front of emergency exits that blocks people exiting, which is far more significant than this.

Re:but small exit ways can lead to death e2 nightc (3, Informative)

aaarrrgggh (9205) | more than 5 years ago | (#29156343)

The building codes try to increase exit width to handle higher traffic flow. The reality, at least as suggested by the research, is similar to what landscape architects have known for generations: people walk faster on a narrow sidewalk than a broad one.

In an emergency, you hit the maximum carrying capacity of any pathway. The key to evacuating a densely occupied space is to convince people to spread out to multiple different exit points, which is confusing in an emergency situation.

I don't think anything is perfect, but when people approach a single door from a number of different angles optimum traffic flow doesn't happen.

Re:but small exit ways can lead to death e2 nightc (3, Informative)

Gorobei (127755) | more than 5 years ago | (#29156595)

The weird thing is that people who actually design stuff for crowd control have known this since at the least the 1980s. The goal is to get people ordered into efficient lines heading towards the goals and make sure people understand the process is fair and nothing is to be gained by jumping lines. For a real world example, see Heathrow's newer terminals versus its older ones, or any third world airport: if you make it easy to cheat by changing lines, and other people can see you do it, you get a mob in short order. So, keep lines narrow, and hard to switch from one to another, and people move faster. That means barriers - big ones. Just think Disneyworld, airports, good stadia.

Re:but small exit ways can lead to death e2 nightc (2, Interesting)

Gorobei (127755) | more than 5 years ago | (#29156629)

Oh, and design the exit assembly areas so as to encourage dispersion from the final choke point at the exit: ideally, have the exit open to an amphitheater like shape so people will walk/run downhill/in various directions. Add attractors to get them away from the choke point fast: like, big sign advertising free beer 100 yards off to the side (seriously.)

Re:but small exit ways can lead to death e2 nightc (4, Interesting)

shma (863063) | more than 5 years ago | (#29156363)

They are not suggesting making the exit smaller, they are suggesting that an obstacle is placed further from the door to reduce the number of paths to the door and keep the number of people trying to push through the exit at any given time to a minimum. See Fig. 18 in the arXiv paper if you want to look at a diagram of this.

Interestingly enough, these results seem to have been known for a while (probably based on anecdotal evidence). I distinctly remember my fluid mechanics teacher telling our class almost exactly the same thing in 2006, explaining that a crowd headed for the exit behaved in similar ways to a fluid trying to pass through a small opening.

Re:but small exit ways can lead to death e2 nightc (1)

PumpkinDog (1253988) | more than 5 years ago | (#29156621)

so you're saying people could exit faster if they all spun around the door like a whirlpool?

Re:but small exit ways can lead to death e2 nightc (1)

BikeHelmet (1437881) | more than 5 years ago | (#29156871)

The situation you're describing sounds like liquid heading downward. I'm pretty sure most doors aren't made in the floor. But if there was a pit, it might be fastest for people to jump into it from multiple directions.

I Could Be Wrong... (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29156035)

...but I remember reading articles about this in Scientific American or Discover years and years ago. I think research into this happened back in the late '80s, after incidents like the NYC "Happy Land" fire, where it was found placing a "grid" of poles near the exits would actually prevent people from stampeding, trampling, and blocking the exits. (Yes, I know it's Slashdot... so I'm not surprised it's actually old news...)

Re:I Could Be Wrong... (1)

u38cg (607297) | more than 5 years ago | (#29156631)

Yeah, I remember research done on this as well.  With a pathway something like this:

\         /
|        |
|        |
|        |
|        |
/          \

You get much faster flows if you erect barriers:

\         /
|  |   | |
|  |   | |
|  |   | |
|  |   | |
/          \

Apologies for the lame ASCII art.

Technical Accomplishments: Japanese vs. Africans (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29156039)

The Japanese have made another important scientific discovery: an obstacle actually speeds exiting during an emergency.

The Japanese have made a tremendous amount of scientific contributions to mankind -- despite specious claims that the Japanese are not "creative". Such accomplishments include the blue light-emitting diode, part of the foundation of quantum physics [nobelprize.org] , etc.

Why have the Japanese accomplished so much, yet the Africans have accomplished so little? Is the difference in accomplishments due to a difference in IQ? Average African IQ is about 20 points less than average Japanese IQ.

Re:Technical Accomplishments: Japanese vs. African (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29156145)

Africans can dance, are athletic and have long dicks. They don't need tech toys to impress women.

Lofty goals (5, Funny)

xZgf6xHx2uhoAj9D (1160707) | more than 5 years ago | (#29156041)

Yanagisawa said that the next step is to program models of people intelligent enough to self-organize into a line.

Personally I think it would be most useful to model humans :\

Re:Lofty goals (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29156307)

I think Travolta said it best in Battlefield Earth: "Stupid humans."

Dividers yes, obstacles no (4, Insightful)

Kjella (173770) | more than 5 years ago | (#29156047)

The biggest issue with a real emergency situation is panic. People being squished against fences, walls and other obstacles because there's too many people behind squeezing, making it more dangerous and less efficient. Same is really for people being trampled, it's very dangerous and almost impossible to help someone being trampled back on their feet in such a crowd for the risk of not getting up yourself. I'd be very careful placing obstacles which might lead to more well-behaved behavior in scientific tests (left, right, left, right, that's so much better) but would be very danerous in a real panicking crowd.

Re:Dividers yes, obstacles no (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29156173)

There should be MORE poles. So while the crowd is pushing on the pole, folks get on the other side and on their way to safety.

I wonder if during a panic, if it would be possible to crowd surf your way to safety. Or walk on their shoulders?

Re:Dividers yes, obstacles no (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29156199)

I think that this obstacle would probably reduce the risk of a panic. Since it makes the exit more efficient, less people are left who could start a panic. The obstacle will control the flow of people around the exit, further reducing the risk that someone could get trampled near the exit. If the obstacle is marked prominently, indicating the direction and distance to the emergency exit, it could further reduce the likelihood of people panicking.

Re:Dividers yes, obstacles no (1)

mistralol (987952) | more than 5 years ago | (#29156253)

This is about the only reason why people can evacuate a plane though its emergancy exists inside the requried time. When you add panic and adrenaline the who results will change dramatically. People in japan are also quite good at running drills. In certain areas they do earthquake drills quiet a lot of the time. When was the last time you did a emergancy drill for something. I certainly did not do one since i was in school.

Re:Dividers yes, obstacles no (1)

Kjella (173770) | more than 5 years ago | (#29156663)

When was the last time you did a emergancy drill for something. I certainly did not do one since i was in school.

Less than a year ago. If you count the fire alarm and the leisurely walk through the main exit to the parking lot for a drill. Which did nothing but strengthen my belief that drills have nothing to do with real emergencies.

Re:Dividers yes, obstacles no (1)

DoofusOfDeath (636671) | more than 5 years ago | (#29156625)

The biggest issue with a real emergency situation is panic. People being squished against fences, walls and other obstacles because there's too many people behind squeezing, making it more dangerous and less efficient.

So people act like a cornstarch solution?

I'm not even sure where to begin in crafting a joke...

Re:Dividers yes, obstacles no (1)

dbcad7 (771464) | more than 5 years ago | (#29156811)

I don't go to events with large groups of people.. I love live music, but even if I had free tickets I wouldn't go to a concert and be a speck in a sea of humanity. I just don't see it as enjoyable. I find it amazing that people will pay hundreds of dollars for the "privilege" of being inconvenienced in their movements. The chance of being trampled is really only a side thought in why I don't go, but it is a legitimate concern.

Flying is perhaps the only situation that I allow myself to be in a crowd.. Boarding is always the pits, with people and their carry-on luggage, but when we land, I will just sit patiently in my window seat and let the cattle push their way through the chute until I can exit easily and walk down the plane with no waiting on the crowd in front of me.. and even then, after all the crazy crap they did to be one of the first off the plane, they are still waiting for their luggage just like I am.. It's amazing, and like they thought it would be different from the last time they flew.

I Predict an Impending FAIL... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29156053)

From TFA:

Yanagisawa said that the next step is to program models of people intelligent enough to self-organize into a line.

Why bother with imaginary beings that don't actually exist?

Already known (4, Informative)

Dachannien (617929) | more than 5 years ago | (#29156085)

These guys [informs.org] already figured this out several years ago. (Sorry, I couldn't find a non-subscription link.)

During the pilgrimages to Mecca, one of the things that people are supposed to do is go into a large stadium and cast rocks at three pillars. Zillions of people attend this event, and there have been numerous trampling deaths at the entrance to the stadium. These guys showed that having obstructions near the entrance improves traffic flow, and so they recommended to officials in Mecca to install such obstacles there, resulting in far fewer trampling deaths near the entrance. Other means of traffic calming [spiegel.de] were used to mitigate deaths elsewhere in the stadium.

Re:Already known (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29156117)

They shouldn't have done this. Let the religious nutjobs die. We're better off without them.

Re:Already known (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29156531)

not a flame not this up

Re:Already known (1)

Opyros (1153335) | more than 5 years ago | (#29156459)

Here [angel.elte.hu] is an older paper with a similar conclusion (and the same lead author).

they sould come to the USA (1)

FudRucker (866063) | more than 5 years ago | (#29156161)

and research the big shopping spree the day after thanksgiving when people trample each other trying to get in to the local Walmart when the doors just open

Re:they sould come to the USA (1)

teopatl (162615) | more than 5 years ago | (#29156213)

This happens every day on a Tokyo subway, only without the falling and death (usually).

Is it like aerodynamic spoilers on cars? (2, Interesting)

shoor (33382) | more than 5 years ago | (#29156175)

There's various places in fluid dynamics where 'obstacles' are put to improve flow aren't there? Those cone shaped things in jet engines for instance (and falcon's have similar cone shaped things in their nostrils.) Maybe this is like that.

Re:Is it like aerodynamic spoilers on cars? (1)

Noose For A Neck (610324) | more than 5 years ago | (#29157085)

Absolutely not. Next question.

It Makes Sense (5, Insightful)

StormyMonday (163372) | more than 5 years ago | (#29156187)

Think of it as impedance matching.

Re:It Makes Sense (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29156273)

So they should try a long narrow winding staircase?

Re:It Makes Sense (1)

aaarrrgggh (9205) | more than 5 years ago | (#29156371)

Kind of; the goal is to allow people to accelerate through the constrained opening; the pole moves restricts flow in advance of the opening so optimal flow can happen through the door.

People panic to get to the door, so the pole helps to restore some order to traffic flow.

Re:It Makes Sense (1)

naasking (94116) | more than 5 years ago | (#29156479)

Excellent analogy. Reflected waves on mismatched transmission line is a beautiful analogy for the jostling that can happen as people try to squeeze past each other through a door.

They didn't fall?!? (1)

weirdcrashingnoises (1151951) | more than 5 years ago | (#29156205)

Inconceivable!

How accurate are the recreations? (1)

jewps (800552) | more than 5 years ago | (#29156223)

How accurate can simulating an evacuation be? You loose the urgency of knowing when the building is collapse or when you are about to be turned into roast pork.

good research, bad conclusion? (1)

parallel_prankster (1455313) | more than 5 years ago | (#29156285)

I am trying to figure out whether any of following is true : Too small a sample set ? How about ~50000 people getting out of a large stadium ? Was there something to do with the obstacle placed near the exit that led people to exit faster ? What about if there is a large piece of rock near the exit. ? What if there is a row of lights that guide people to form queues near the exit ? Would that be faster than this ? I think the study was conducted in the right spirit, but the conclusions cannot be easily drawn. To simply dismiss intuition is not the correct way to go about it. To say that an obstacle placed near the exit makes people exit faster is not the best way to put out the conclusion IMHO. How about an obstacle placed near the exit tends to reorder people which can lead to faster exit ?

Modeling cooperation as laminar flow (1)

1 a bee (817783) | more than 5 years ago | (#29156313)

During the experiment, the team also found that people exiting in a single-file line were by far the most efficient. Yanagisawa said that the next step is to program models of people intelligent enough to self-organize into a line.

It would also been interesting to see if a few spoilers can break the flow. (As in the onset of turbulence in a fluid?)

Fine for the able bodied.. (1)

rossdee (243626) | more than 5 years ago | (#29156345)

but what about disabled people? I would think that the obstacle would cause big probles with wheelchairs and walkers.

Re:Fine for the able bodied.. (1)

managerialslime (739286) | more than 5 years ago | (#29156539)

but what about disabled people? I would think that the obstacle would cause big problems with wheelchairs and walkers.

The article did not say the obstacle had to be in front of the ext. One example given was a pole 30 degrees to the right. By helping people to form lines in advance of the exit, this approach prevents a mash of bodies. This in turn may enable those with wheelchairs and walkers a chance of passing through instead of stopping up an exit.

I think there are public venues where this should be considered.

Similar to a traffic circle? (1)

Hurricane78 (562437) | more than 5 years ago | (#29156373)

This instantly reminded me of a roundabout, which also helps with congestion and crashes.

Which makes it obvious where to place such poles.

And where to put some girls on them. :P

Why a Pole? (4, Funny)

consumer_whore (652448) | more than 5 years ago | (#29156391)

Would a Russian or Italian be as effective?

What's new here? (1)

Nomen Publicus (1150725) | more than 5 years ago | (#29156493)

Isn't this well known? I've seen TV documentaries with computer animations showing the difference between a crowd at an exit and a crowd at a partially blocked exit. Against intuition, the partially blocked exit allows more people to escape in a given time.

Bernoulli effect? (1)

K. S. Kyosuke (729550) | more than 5 years ago | (#29156563)

My first thought was that Bernoulli (one of them :-)) is smiling in his grave.

Didn't seem to help with Titanic evacuation (1)

mysidia (191772) | more than 5 years ago | (#29156643)

RMS Titanic third class passengers had class-separation obstacles to contend with, locked barricades and gates to climb, to get to the boat deck, the survival rate among 3rd class males was 10%, and among 3rd class female passengers 25%.

Whereas the survival rate was 50% for male 1st class passengers and nearly 100% for female 1st class passengers.

Now I don't want to make any generalizations about obstacles, but be careful... unless thought out really well, the obstacles may do more harm than good in a real disaster.

A pole might stop people bumping into each other in a crowded room, but in a less-crowded room there's a risk, someone running or walking about accidentally crashes into the pole and injures themselves.

Re:Didn't seem to help with Titanic evacuation (1)

RoboRay (735839) | more than 5 years ago | (#29156727)

There are slight differences between a pole near an open doorway and a series of locked gates that have to be broken down or climbed over.

Re:Didn't seem to help with Titanic evacuation (2, Insightful)

mysidia (191772) | more than 5 years ago | (#29156807)

Yes, there are some differences.

The extent of the difference could depend on how high the pole is mounted, e.g. how hard it is for people to step over, crawl underneath, or get around the pole.

Subway test (1)

gurps_npc (621217) | more than 5 years ago | (#29156703)

They should test it out at a subway exit. Many times they have a single stair that leads from the platform out and there are a LARGE number of times each day that a lot of people try to exit it.

It should be easy to put a camera up and time people for a week, then install a pole and time them again. Have an intern count the number of people each time as well as speed.

Real life emergencies are always different. (1)

lalena (1221394) | more than 5 years ago | (#29156771)

I'm reminded of one airplane evacuation study where everyone exited the plane in a nice orderly fashion. Then they repeated the same study but paid the people based on the order they exited the plane. Let's just say the results were different. People climbing over seats pushing each other out of the way... Gov study in PDF [dtic.mil]

Whatever happened to ... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29156839)

women and children first?

aaaaah goooo gogooo dada (that's my place reserved!)

Analysis tool for this existed 10+ years ago (1)

yalap (1443551) | more than 5 years ago | (#29156997)

Nothing new. I recall reading a software review 10-15 years ago of a system that would review/simulate evacuations of large venues. One of the issues was crowd exits and pillars. Adding pillars to a wide door way created more edges, and more people can slip through on the edges of a doorway than those lined up in an orderly queue. The other issues I recall were that people often wanted to exit the way they entered rather than using the closest exit, so signs had to be clear. And people would like to gather their family or group together first, then exit.
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