Airport Emergency Evacuation Planning: An Agent-based Simulation Study of Dirty Bomb Scenarios

November 2015 | Parrish, Blake

Emergency evacuation from airports is an important consideration given the continuing occurrence of both natural and human caused disasters. Unfortunately, the traditional evacuation-drill approach to prepare for emergency situations presents several practical challenges at the scale and magnitude required for airports. In this paper, we present an agent-based model (ABM) called exitus which is capable of determining the extent to which collective behavior and overall evacuation time of passenger groups is affected by changes in the built environment for large, complex structures. The model is unique because it explicitly considers the physical and psychological characteristics of individuals with disabilities. In our first experiment, several bomb simulation scenarios were conducted at an international airport using exitus. Several important findings were revealed including: 1) the importance of stairway and exit configurations; 2) the inherent weaknesses of the pier airport design in affecting timely evacuations; 3) who the most vulnerable groups of people are; 4) the particular risk engendered from crowded or complex building interiors for individuals with disabilities; and 5) the potential problems caused by locating explosive detection system machines near passenger processing areas. The results of a second exploratory experiment also revealed the importance of realistically modeling psychological attributes of individuals with disabilities and their potential impact on collective evacuation performance. Overall the findings demonstrated the model’s ability to generate a common operational picture capable of guiding preparedness efforts for both public and private organizations encompassing a wide variety of professional endeavor.



  • Yong Kim
  • Keith Christensen
  • Anthony Chen


IEEE Transactions on Systems, Man, and Cybernetics: Systems

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