Aim: The purpose of this article is to present the stochastic nature of the process of evacuating people from buildings. This process depends on the behaviour of the group of evacuees, as well as the speed of their movement.

Introduction: The article enumerates the elements involved in the estimated safe evacuation time, such as detection time, notification, the initial reactions of the people inside the building, and movement time. The most common reactions to fire alarms such as: trying to finishing the already started activities, packing and collecting personal belongings, looking for missing family members, attempts to extinguish the fire, trying to investigate the situation, theft attempts, etc., have been shown. These extends the evacuation time and results in lower safety levels for the evacuees. What is more, the article features human movement speed data which has been obtained from academic sources and which takes into consideration such circumstances as human traffic congestion on the escape routes, the types of movement, the specific conditions in the building, the type of place from which people are evacuating, the individual characteristics of the evacuees (such as gender, body weight and fitness levels) and finally the features of the escape route. An experiment has been carried out that not only showed the changing nature of human behaviour during evacuation but also proved the changeability of evacuation speeds of the same people in similar circumstances.

Results: A review of the available academic sources has been used to estimate the total evacuation time and analyse the progress of evacuation, which in turn has revealed that it is not only human behaviour that matters during evacuation but also the existence of the fire alarm systems in the building. as well as the speed of evacuation of every individual. It has been proven that the process is stochastic in nature, i.e. random, and depends on many variables.

Relevance in practice: the experiment that has been carried out with the help from the firefighters from the local unit in Pabianice has confirmed that even the same person, in similar circumstances, can move at very different speeds, which means that it is impossible to perform exactly the same evacuation operation twice. The experiment was compared with a computer simulation made in the Pathfinder program, one of the most popular tools for fire safety engineering.

Keywords: evacuation, human behaviour, speed of movement, experiment

Type of article: original scientific article