Evacuation of Children: Focusing on daycare centers and elementary schools

Aldis Run Larusdottir

    Research output: Book/ReportPh.D. thesis

    3691 Downloads (Pure)


    Saving human lives is the highest priority in case of fire, according to fire codes around the world. Codes state that everyone should be able to escape to safety in case of fire. In order to design buildings that enable this the available safe egress time (ASET) must be held up against the required safe egress time (RSET). In theory if the ASET is larger than RSET everyone gets out safely. Different calculation methods are used for the determination of both times. Results of the calculations can however never be more accurate than the data they are based on. The aim of this project is to provide new data and information on children’s evacuation, which is a step towards including children in evacuation models and calculations.
    Little is known about children’s evacuation characteristics in fire compared to other parts of the population. In recent years there has been more focus on children’s evacuation which is reflected in a rising number of publications on the topic.
    This thesis comprises evacuation experiments in daycares for children 0-6 years old and elementary schools for children aged 6-15 years. Full scale evacuations were filmed allowing detailed data analysis.
    Findings and results include elements of three different areas, namely measurable parameters such as travel speed and flow though doors, human behavior such as choice of route and actions and processes such as evacuation procedures and warning methods. These areas are all related and influence each other, making it hard to isolate single factors and findings. Although an engineering approach fits best to the measurable parameters, the other areas are at least equally important when investigating or predicting children’s evacuation.
    The key findings of the thesis are:
    Children are very dependent on adults for initiating and carrying through an evacuation where the youngest children need the most assistance in both phases. Self preservation i.e. where children descended stairs unassisted, was less than 25 % for children aged 0-2 years but over 85 % for children aged 3-6 years.
    Warning method influenced pre-evacuation time, indicating that an alarm with audio signal is preferable to a light signal only or no alarm at all.
    Children’s evacuation cannot be described using adults’ evacuation models throughout. Young children are slower than adults and travel speed increases with age. At the age of 12 years children can be described using adults’ travel parameters on stairs.
    Children generally achieved higher person densities and flow rates than adults. The flow rate increased with age until the age of 12 years where it started lowering, approaching theoretical values for adults. Children used the whole width of doors and stairs where needed, not leaving a boundary layer as the theory for adults suggests.
    Handrails were frequently used by both age groups in the daycare centers, more when walking on their own than when assisted. It was found that children using a low handrail achieved on average a 23.5% higher travel speed than those using a handrail designed for adults.
    Training has a positive effect on evacuation time and process. Fire drills showed weaknesses in evacuation procedures which could be revised accordingly.
    Although a number of findings have been made and new data has been provided there is need for further research on the topic. Suggestions include data collection as well as further use of the existing video material, for answering unanswered questions and validating the current results.
    Original languageEnglish
    PublisherTechnical University of Denmark, Department of Civil Engineering
    Number of pages158
    ISBN (Print)978-87-78-77381-4
    Publication statusPublished - 2014
    SeriesBYG Rapport R-295


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