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Hochiki Europe designs an emergency signage system for passengers during the evacuation of a transport terminal

Published on 13 June 2012
Hochiki’s fire detection solution, based around the company’s Enhanced Systems Protocol (ESP) will be configured as part of the proposed system
Hochiki Europe's contribution will help in navigating a route to safety in the event of a fire

Hochiki Europe, the leading manufacturer of innovative life safety solutions, has announced its participation in a pioneering European Union funded initiative to design an intelligent emergency signage system for the real-time direction of passengers during the evacuation of a transport terminal.

Organisations in the rail sector have got together with leading fire safety manufacturers and other experts in this field for Project Getaway, which stands for generating simulations to enable testing of alternative routes to improve wayfinding in evacuation of overground and underground terminals. Companies and organisations involved include BMT Techmar, London Underground, EvacLite, the University of Greenwich, Ferrocarrils de la Generalitat de Catalunya, Vision Semantics and Kingfell Bulgaria.

In emergency situations the ability of passengers to navigate transport terminals and escape to a place of safety can often be hindered by a lack of detailed knowledge of the internal connectivity of the building space, and the most suitable means of escape.

Paul Turner, Hochiki Europe’s new business manager, is closely involved with the project and explained, ‘Signage is an essential aid to reducing the time spent searching for an escape route, however, it can be difficult to interpret – especially in smoke. Existing emergency signage is static and does not consider the evolving incident and how passengers should be routed accordingly.’

Studies have also shown that in these situations occupants usually make use of familiar routes, typically using an exit through which they entered the building. In addition, research from the University of Greenwich, called Human Behaviour in Fire Network (HUBFIN), found that only 38 per cent of people see static signage when they have to evacuate.

The various members of Project Getaway will combine their respective talents to design and trial an intelligent emergency signage system for real-time direction of transport terminal passengers, which will route them according to the exact nature of the evacuation incident.

This exercise will be validated using full-scale tests at a London Underground station and at an overground station in Barcelona, involving a cross section of members of the public. Should the trials yield a 37 per cent improvement in the number of people that exit correctly, it will be deemed a success and go on to the next stage of development.

Hochiki’s fire detection solution, based around the company’s Enhanced Systems Protocol (ESP) will be configured as part of the proposed system. Information sent to the detection system’s control panel will allow readings from the detectors to be extrapolated by specially designed software that will, in turn, communicate with the emergency signage to provide passengers with the most appropriate exit path.

The long-term aim of Project Getaway is to enable transport terminal and interchange designers to trial new computer based designs, modelling the efficiency of evacuation procedures with or without the new emergency signage system in place. This will provide not only a demonstration of its potential advantages, but also a mechanism by which transport terminal and interchange design can be verified quickly, cheaply and effectively.

Hochiki Europe’s Paul Turner, concluded, ‘We are delighted to be able to contribute our considerable fire detection experience and expertise to Project Getaway. It is an initiative that will have massive benefits for the rail infrastructure sector and help make navigating a route to safety in the event of a fire as easy as possible."

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