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Railway station project

A European Union (EU) funded project to improve the evacuation of railway stations has been recognised by The Guardian University Awards.

The University of Greenwich was named winner of the Research Impact section for Project Getaway – an initiative that aims to design and develop an intelligent emergency signage system for the real-time direction of passengers during the evacuation of a transport terminal.

Hochiki Europe is working alongside the University of Greenwich, pan-European organisations in the rail sector and other fire safety manufacturers on Project Getaway, which is coorrundinated by BMT Group Ltd. Participants include London Underground, EvacLite, Ferrocarrils de la Generalitat de Catalunya, Vision Semantics, Kingfell Bulgaria and BMT Techmar.

Hochiki Europe’s technical manager, Leonard Manning, said, ‘In emergency situations the ability of passengers to navigate transport terminals and reach a place of safety can often be hindered by a lack of detailed knowledge of the internal connectivity of the building space, and the most suitable means of escape. Signage is an essential aid to reducing the time spent searching for an escape route, however, it can be difficult to interpret – especially in smoke.’

Research from fire safety engineering group (FSEG) at the University of Greenwich found that only 38 per cent of people see static signage when they have to evacuate. Ed Galea, director of FSEG, said: ‘We wanted to know, how emergency signage could best be adapted to react to a fast-changing, hazardous environment’

The various members of Getaway combined to design and trial intelligent emergency signage. Researchers wanted to see whether this dynamic system could improve the proportion of those who noticed emergency signs when trying to find a place of safety by 50 per cent. The new system uses a flashing green arrow to indicate a viable evacuation route and a flashing red X over designate exit sign to indicate a non-viable evacuation route. So far, the system has been tested in the laboratory and at an overground train station in Barcelona.

The results of the trials exceeded all expectations. For example, the laboratory tests showed that twice as many people can detect the flashing green arrow (compared to the standard sign) while an international survey demonstrated that the meaning of the large flashing red X (i.e., non-viable exit) was understood by virtually everyone. Moreover, the overground trial in Barcelona showed that the combination of flashing green arrows and red Xs worked highly effectively to evacuate the crowd from the station.

Leonard Manning added: ‘We are incredibly proud of our contribution to the success of Project Getaway. The University of Greenwich and the GETAWAY project fully deserve this accolade from The Guardian University Awards for its work in keeping people safe in difficult circumstances.’

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