23 de agosto de 2016

Statistical fluctuations in pedestrian evacuation times and the effect of social contagion

A. Nicolas, S. Bouzat, M. N. Kuperman, Phys. Rev.  E 94, 022313 (2016)

Mathematical models of pedestrian evacuation and the associated simulation software have become essential tools for the assessment of the safety of public facilities and buildings.While a variety of models is now available, their calibration and test against empirical data are generally restricted to global averaged quantities; the statistics compiled from the time series of individual escapes (“microscopic” statistics) measured in recent experiments are thus overlooked. In the same spirit, much research has primarily focused on the average global evacuation time, whereas the whole distribution of evacuation times over some set of realizations should matter. In the present paper we propose and discuss the validity of a simple relation between this distribution and the microscopic statistics, which is theoretically valid in the absence of correlations. To this purpose, we develop a minimal cellular automaton, with features that afford a semiquantitative reproduction of the experimental microscopic statistics. We then introduce a process of social contagion of impatient behavior in the model and show that the simple relation under test may dramatically fail at high contagion strengths, the latter being responsible for the emergence of strong correlations in the system.We conclude with comments on the potential practical relevance for safety science of calculations based on microscopic statistics.