GETAWAY Project logo Generating simulations to Enable Testing of Alternative routes to improve WAYfinding in evacuation of over-ground and underground terminals
Granted under the "Seventh Framework Programme" of the European Commission
Research area: SST.2010.4.1-1 Safety and security by design in transport stations and terminals
Project Reference: 265717
The Guardian University Awards Winner 2014

In acknowledgement of FSEG’s work on developing the IADSS concept and its contribution to the GETAWAY project, FSEG was awarded the prestigious Research Impact Award for 2014 as part of The Guardian University Awards. A full account of the award and the citation can be found on The Guardian web pages.

Efficient evacuation from transport terminals is usually constrained by a lack of detailed knowledge of the geometry. In most cases, the population attempts to evacuate via the way they entered, bypassing or ignoring emergency exits and using familiar routes. In serious fires, the inability to locate emergency exits can lead to loss of life as in the Kings Cross Underground Station (1988) and Dusseldorf airport (1996) fires. While terminal staff attempt to direct passengers to the most appropriate exits, they cannot be everywhere throughout the station and they may not be able to reach the population quickly enough. Throughout the world, emergency signage has traditionally been used to address this problem. However, recent research has shown that only 38% of people see evacuation signage, even if the sign is located directly in front of them and their vision is unobstructed.

GETAWAY will tackle this problem through the design and development of an Intelligent Active Dynamic Signage System (IADSS). Through the introduction of lit, flashing and running signs, the traditional static emergency sign will transform into a Dynamic Signage System. The increased affordance offered by the DSS will significantly increase the detection of the emergency exit sign. By linking the DSS to the alarm system, the DSS will only be activated when needed, thereby overcoming the learnt irrelevance of emergency signs. Finally, the Active Dynamic Signage System will be linked to an automated system utilising evacuation simulation, CCTV footage and Fire Detection System information to determine the optimal evacuation route as the fire develops, bringing Intelligence to the ADSS. IADSS then enables the terminal Incident Manager to direct passengers to the 'optimal' egress route by activating the appropriate signs within the ADSS. The IADSS (Intelligent Active Dynamic Signage Systems) will be tested and validated through trials in the London Underground and Barcelona Metro. GETAWAY will bring the humble emergency exit sign into the 21st Century.

The above architecture shows the three distinct layers of the GETAWAY system:

  • The Hardware Layer
  • The Communications Layer
  • The Application Layer

Within the three layers of the GETAWAY architecture, green coloured elements indicate components which are considered to be in place and part of the standard security system. The blue coloured elements are components that will be developed as part of the GETAWAY system, while red coloured components are data streams which are necessary for the GETAWAY system to function.

The Application Layer provides the intelligence of the GETAWAY system. It includes:

  •  Vision analysis: to pick features from the CCTV feed.
  • The simulation engine: to examine the impact of different passenger routing options
  • The decision engine: to determine the best routing of passengers based on output from the simulation engine
  • The UI: to inform the Incident Manager of the suggested best routing strategy allowing them to activate the appropriate signage components.

FSEG is responsible for the development and implementation of the simulation engine and the integration of this system into the overall GETAWAY system. FSEG is also heavily involved in the experimental part of the project.


GETAWAY is concerned with improving pedestrian wayfinding in transportation terminals, during emergency evacuation situations. A new concept is to be developed as part of this project called Intelligent Active Dynamic Signage Systems (IADSS) to assist in this process. Research performed by the FSEG has shown that only 38% of people see present passive signage in emergency situations. However, of the people who do see the sign, 100% follow the sign. This research therefore suggests that emergency signage systems can be extremely effective if people CAN and DO SEE them. The main objective of GETAWAY is to improve safety in transportation terminals through improved signage systems. To meet this prime objective, this project will develop and demonstrate, through a series of iterative steps, an innovative emergency signage system that will:

  • significantly improve the detect ability of signage systems by 50%,
  • achieve this without increasing the size of the sign or changing the visual content of the sign, thereby making it acceptable to owners, architects and regulatory authorities,
  • make use of environmental information relating to the developing hazardous situation in real-time,
  • make use of video analysis techniques that can determine the number of people within given regions within the station environment to an accuracy of 90%,
  • make use of evacuation simulations involving 100s of people which can be performed at least 3 times faster than real time.
FSEG Objectives and Contribution
The first step in GETAWAY is to develop a dynamic element to the standard emergency evacuation signs; and demonstrate the effectiveness of this. A Dynamic Signage Systems (DSS) is proposed incorporating lit, flashing and running lighting, which should make the signs more notable. It is proposed to use the innovative signage system developed by Evaclite which utilises a dynamic lighting system which makes use of all of these attributes.
This system will be assessed by FSEG, using the laboratory scale techniques FSEG developed to assess the effectiveness of standard signs to quantify how much more effective such a system is compared to the
standard passive signage.
The next stage of GETAWAY is to develop an Active Dynamic Signage System (ADSS). With ADSS, the emergency sign is activated only in the event of an emergency, thereby making the sign more notable when it is needed. To achieve this, the ADSS will be connected to the existing alarm system. This will be achieved through the participation of Hochiki.
Once this is achieved, the next stage of the project involves introducing Intelligence into the Active Dynamic Signage Systems (IADSS). The significant aspect of this is that the ADSS would not only come on when required, but only those signs which point in the 'optimal' evacuation direction are activated. This will require the use of much faster than real time simulation of evacuation, data from detection and monitoring sensors throughout the environment, analysis of CCTV images to count the number of people in various locations in real time and a decision engine.
The evacuation simulation will be achieved using the FSEG software buildingEXODUS and incorporate this software within an automatic decision making environment, in order to select the optimal evacuation route for occupants exposed to a developing emergency situation. To achieve this, buildingEXODUS will need to be adapted to accept as data input CCTV analysis of crowd location and crowd number, and hazard data such as smoke concentrations and temperatures from the fire detection system. In addition, the buildingEXODUS software will need to be adapted to produce metrics that will be of use to the Decision Engine, which will automatically select the most appropriate exiting routes. The software will need to be able to perform all of these functions in faster than real-time, in order to influence the evacuation as it occurs.

As part of project GETAWAY FSEG will extend the buildingEXODUS software in several key areas. These are:

  • Use of faster than real-time simulation to assist the management of live evacuation scenarios.
  • Incorporation of live hazard sensor data such as smoke concentrations and temperatures into real time simulation.
  • Utilising live CCTV video footage to determine initial conditions (numbers of people and starting locations) for evacuation simulations.

Project GETAWAY will involve a series of experimental trials undertaken in three phases.

  • Demonstrating that DSS (Dynamic Signage Systems) based on flashing and running lighting systems increases the affordance of emergency signage systems and increases above 38% the number of people “seeing” the emergency sign.
  • Introduce ADSS (Active Dynamic Signage Systems) in which the DSS is activated when needed, once the alarm is activated, thereby reducing the 'learned irrelevance' effect of seeing emergency signs every day and never making use of them.
  • Introduce IADSS (Intelligent Active Dynamic Signage Systems)in which the ADSS adapts the directional information depending on the nature of the developing incident.

FSEG will be active in the design, implementation, data collection and analysis of these three trials.



Further Information

Prof. Ed Galea 
Fire Safety Engineering Group
of Greenwich 
Greenwich Maritime Campus 
Old Royal Naval College 
Queen Mary Building 
Greenwich SE10 9LS 

Tel: +44 (020) 8331 8730 

The GETAWAY project is funded by the European Commission's 7th Framework Programme