Hatch Mott MacDonald has developed the STEPS program (Simulation of Transient Evacuation and Pedestrian Movements) to simulate the movement of people under both normal and emergency conditions. Office blocks, sports stadiums, shopping malls, and underground stations are all examples of areas where there is a need to ensure uncomplicated transitions in normal operation and rapid evacuation in the event of an emergency. Optimization of people flow through simulation can provide a more agreeable environment and more effective fire safety design in large and crowded places.
Human behavior is simulated through the use of complex characteristics from travel speed and destination to the amount of system familiarity and level of patience. A key feature of STEPS is its ability to predict evacuation, and such models can accommodate a “shut-down” of evacuation routes due to smoke contamination, the effects of emergency services moving against the evacuation flow, and initiation of evacuation at different times from different areas of the environment.