Date of Award:

2012

Document Type:

Dissertation

Degree Name:

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department:

Management Information Systems

Advisor/Chair:

John D. Johnson

Abstract

Evacuation planning for private-sector organizations is an important consideration given the continuing occurrence of both natural and human-caused disasters that inordinately affect them. Unfortunately, the traditional management approach that is focused on fire drills presents several practical challenges at the scale required for many organizations but especially those responsible for national critical infrastructure assets such as airports and sports arenas. In this research we developed Exitus, a comprehensive decision support system that may be used to simulate large-scale evacuations of such structures. The system is unique because it considers individuals with disabilities explicitly in terms of physical and psychological attributes. It is also capable of classifying the environment in terms of accessibility characteristics encompassing various conditions that have been shown to have a disproportionate effect upon the behavior of individuals with disabilities during an emergency. The system was applied to three unique test beds: a multi-story office building, an international airport, and a major sports arena. Several simulation experiments revealed specific areas of concern for both building managers and management practice in general. In particular, we were able to show (a) how long evacuations of heterogeneous populations may be expected to last, (b) who the most vulnerable groups of people are, (c) the risk engendered from particular design features for individuals with disabilities, and (d) the potential benefits from adopting alternate evacuation strategies, among others. Considered together, the findings provide a useful foundation for the development of best practices and policies addressing the evacuation concerns surrounding heterogeneous populations in large, complex environments. Ultimately, a capabilitiesbased approach featuring both tactical and strategic planning with an eye toward the unique problems presented by individuals with disabilities is recommended.

Comments

This work made publicly available electronically on May 10, 2012.

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