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To Prevent 'Panic' In An Underground Emergency: Why Not Tell People The Truth?

Proulx, G. and Sime, J.D., 1991. To Prevent 'Panic' In An Underground Emergency: Why Not Tell People The Truth?. Fire Safety Science 3: 843-852. doi:10.3801/IAFSS.FSS.3-843


The research study reported was carried out on behalf of Tyne and Wear Passenger Transport Executive (P.T.E) in Newcastle U.K., in order to assess the efficiency of their communication system in the event of an emergency evacuation. There were two stages in the research program. Firstly, an evaluation of the day to day functioning of the sub-surface stations as an information system was carried out with particular reference to way finding. Secondly, an experiment involving five evacuations was conducted in the most spatially complex station. The information given to users in each of the five evacuations differed: 1. alarm bell only, 2. alarm bell with two staff members, 3. alarm bell and minimal nondirective public announcements, 4. alarm bell with two staff members and directive public announcements, 5. alarm bell with improved directive public announcements. Three measures were assessed: the time to start to move, the time to clear the station and the appropriate behavior in the situation. The results show that evacuations 4 and 5 were completed rapidly and safely. The study highlights the importance of issuing prompt instructions to the public, explaining what is happening, what to do and why, if a successful evacuation is to be achieved.


panic, underground station, fire, information, communications, time to start, alarm bell, control room, cctv, public address (p.a.)

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