Do not push, please. That’s a common message during a fire drill. But, why? If you find yourself in an emergency situation, what is common is that you run as much as possible to the exit. However, that is a dangerous attitude. Pressure can be detrimental when an evacuation takes place. An experiment developed in the Granular Lab and the School of Architecture of the University of Navarra has shown the importance of pressure in evacuations.
Faster-is-slower in evacuation
Researchers from the University of Navarra have carried out an experiment with students to show that faster is slower in evacuation. The question that promoted the study was: “Why pushing is detrimental when evacuating a room?” To know it, the group of researchers decided to simplify the study as much as possible. They started analysing what happens with 2D particles that fall down through a small exit. Afterwards, they make the experiment a bit more difficult doing the study with dices.
However, those dices and particles were static. Therefore, they decided to analyse the same situation with sheeps. Opening the door of a room where they eat was the closer scenario to an emergency situation. The study showed that sheeps got stuck at the entrance of the door. Some of them even jumped and stepped on other sheeps.
The last scenario, as can be watched in the video above, was doing the same experiment with people. Two different situations were developed. In the first one, people had to go out of the room without making pressure. On the other hand, in the second case, people had to go out as fast as possible. The result is really dangerous. People get stuck at the exit and some of them can’t even move for some seconds. This kind of situations can be stressful and harmful.
Researchers will now try to repeat some of the experiments done with more accurate facilities. They will also try to implement some strategies to solve those dangerous situations. The results obtained in the first experiments can be found in an article published in Physical Review E.