Hardly a year passes without news of a major stampede in which people die because of dangerous bottlenecks or unexpected obstacles that obstruct crowd movement. Working with a number of public and private sector partners, engineers and computer scientists at the Technical University Munich (TUM) have created a crowd simulation program that they hope will help prevent such disasters.
Even supposedly minor obstructions can have a major impact on crowd dynamics. We can use the program to run any number of ‘what-if’ simulations. We know, for example, that crowd formation varies in the event of a bottleneck depending on the width of a passage or route. We also know that people tend to follow other people.”
— Angelika Kneidl, Computational Modeling and Simulation Group, TUM
To help make emergency management considerably easier, the program is able to compute evacuation scenarios for major events at various venues by simulating the behavior of crowds numbering into the thousands. According to the TUM announcement, “Color-coded crowd densities and real-time simulations make it a particularly user-friendly application, especially as conventional microscopic simulations usually require a long time to compute.”
The “FireSim method kit” includes four simulation modules. Module one is a role-playing board game that permits workers to test their ideas with the least effort. Module two is a computer game, and the third blends virtual and real elements. A fourth module is designed to help emergency workers to assess new ideas and technologies in a controlled context that includes a major fire event, many emergency workers, and even bystanders.
We take the behavior of individuals as our starting point. How does a firefighter behave, and how about members of the public? We convert these into behavioral models – or agents – and then a computer calculates how a major emergency operation will play out, taking these behavioral models into account. These simulations allow us to make rapid changes to prototypes and put them to the test in complex deployment scenarios. Since we want to take the whole hierarchy into account, we recreate all communication and coordination processes in the simulation as far as we can.”
— Markus Valle-Klann, project manager, Fraunhofer Institute for Applied Information Technology FIT
The researchers plan to present the FireSim methods kit at the CeBIT trade fair in Hannover.