EXPERIMENTAL STUDY TO COMPARE FACTORS INFLUENCING EXIT CHOICE BEHAVIOUR IN EMERGENCY EVACUATION SITUATIONS USING VIRTUAL REALITY TECHNIQUES
Keywords: Virtual Reality, Emergency Evacuation, Herding, Crowding, Exit Familiarity
Abstract. Successful emergency evacuation of a large crowd depends on understanding human behaviour and its interaction with environmental stimuli in that situation. A careful study of human behaviour in these stressful and often time-bound situations can enable building designers to account for these effects to develop the most efficient evacuation strategies. One of the major roadblocks of the field has been the lack of reliable data collection techniques. Traditionally, most of the data analysed for these studies is either collected from historical events or through stated preference (SP) surveys given the challenges of conducting high-risk emergency evacuation experiments. The project is aimed at conducting emergency evacuation scenarios in a virtual reality (VR) environment. Eighty-four participants participated in multiple cases as a part of three VR scenarios to test various factors affecting their decision-making process. Participants were immersed in VR scenarios and subjected to a series of choices. Incorporation of VR technology enabled the experiment to record participants' stated preference with a much greater degree of certainty and realism as opposed to traditional pen and paper methods. The study devised a discrete choice model and calibrated it using the data obtained from the VR-based survey. When testing multiple competing factors in the VR scenarios and comparing the results with previous studies, in one VR scenario, the direction of exit signs was found more influential than crowding. In another scenario, familiarity with an exit appeared to be more influential than herding behaviour and exit distance. Overall, the VR technology is demonstrated to provide an advantage as a means to collect data and has come out as a promising tool to be incorporated in future emergency exit choice studies.