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Game Theory and Adaptive Networks for Smart Evacuations

By J. Preston, J. Binner, Layla Branicki, M. Ferrario, T. Galla and Nick Jones


In the United Kingdom the evacuation of cities has not been a recent concern although incidents such as floods or acts of terrorism have meant that cities have had to be partially evacuated. Whether the area to be evacuated is a city district, a whole city or even a city region the way in which people behave and how they choose to share and receive information is paramount. In the pre and warning stages of an evacuation people will behave in different ways. Some individuals might have access to rumours that a crisis is about to occur (we call these weak signals) and start evacuating before the official order to do so. Others might have no access to information, may decide to act only when others do, or even ignore official warnings and remain in their homes (as was the case with Hurricane Katrina). During the evacuation there will also be communication between the authorities and emergency services and even between evacuees who might communicate through mobile telephones or social networks (such as twitter). Even at the end of the evacuation individuals will be making decisions about what to do (to stay in the evacuation zone or return to the city) and will stay in touch with others. In this project we consider that the ways in which individuals might behave in evacuations can be described using mathematical models and theories. One way of describing how people act as a collective is through agent based models, where individuals influence others information and behaviour, and another is game theory, where individual's decisions are strategic. By combining these we can predict how individuals might behave in an evacuation and determine the ways in which the emergency services and local responders might influence social networks and communication to help individuals and businesses evacuate safely and effectively. Of course, we anticipate that individuals might have access to new technologies in terms of communication so part of the project will look at how this may change the dynamics of evacuation.The project is informed throughout by current practice and will inform policy. Three cities (London, Birmingham and Carlisle) are chosen as case studies of how real evacuations might be assisted by the project. We will look at the evacuation plans in each of these cities, conduct focus groups and expert interviews with relevant parties, and analyse the use of social networks in actual evacuation or crisis events. Stakeholder groups will comment on the models which we produce and feedback as to how they can be adapted to work in practice.The results of the project will feed into how real evacuations work and inform the strategies and technologies used. We will produce both an interim and final report from the project and our impact plan will make sure that relevant parties are informed about the project and its results. One example of how the project might be useful is in terms of informing emergency planners and services in cities. If these planners know how social networks and mobile communications are used in an evacuation then they can tailor their messages accordingly. If, for example, there are two roads out of a city and analysis of social networks and traffic flow shows that individuals are intending to use the first road which would cause congestion then they can decide what sort of message would best direct people towards the second road, how long it would take to propagate and what effect it might have. In another example, road signs do not often give real time information about what is happening, which might be crucial during an evacuation. By using electronic and ambient signage not only can a message be sent but the effect of the message can be judged

Topics: QA76
Publisher: EPSR
Year: 2011
OAI identifier:
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