Software simulates safe and speedy evacuation of crowded stadiums

If you're one of the thousands of Americans who will attend a sporting event this weekend, this post is for you.
Written by Christina Hernandez Sherwood, Contributing Writer

If you're one of the thousands of Americans who will attend a sporting event this weekend, this post is for you.

Since the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the FBI warned of terrorist interest in attacking crowded stadiums, researchers have been working on ways to quickly and safely evacuate thousands of sports fans.

Now, new simulation software called SportEvac is being developed and tested by the National Center for Spectator Sports Safety & Security at the University of Southern Mississippi, with funding from the homeland security department's Science and Technology Directorate.

SportEvac creates virtual, three-dimensional stadiums based on models of actual sports facilities. The virtual stadiums are filled with up to 70,000 avatars that are programmed to respond to threats as humans would (read: unpredictably). According to the researchers, previous software could only simulate a crowd of about 5,000. Also included in the virtual stadiums are workers, emergency responders and vehicles.

The application is meant to help security experts answer such questions as:

  • How can my stadium be evacuated in the shortest time?
  • How can civil emergency workers quickly get in as fans are dashing out?
  • How can our stadium guards and ushers provide valuable information to civil responders and assist them as the evacuation unfolds?

The researchers envision security officers using SportEvac to refine emergency procedures with responders. During a real evacuation, a version of the application could link ushers with smartphones to graphics showing where fans or vehicles are stuck in traffic bottlenecks.

Researchers in Mississippi are creating three-dimensional models of seven of the state's college sports stadiums. Later this year, security teams from those athletic departments will test and refine SportEvac with the help of government officials before the tool is deployed to the universities. Later, an advanced version of the tool will be made available to other sports venues.

Image: SportEvac / U.S. Department of Homeland Security

This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com

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