Embargoed Until: Friday, 15 November, 2002

University wins Queen’s Anniversary Prize for Life-saving software design

Cutting edge software that simulates evacuations during emergencies, helping building, aircraft and ship designers to save lives, was awarded a prestigious Queen’s Anniversary Prize for Higher Education at a special reception for prize winners at St James's Palace on 14 November.

Developed by the University of Greenwich’s Fire Safety Engineering Group, the EXODUS suite of evacuation software uses complex interacting sub-models to predict evacuation behaviour during emergencies such as fires. The software’s sophistication means that people are represented as individuals with real human behaviour, such as returning to their desk to collect a handbag or searching for a child.  Simulated occupants even react to the heat, smoke and toxic gases generated by a fire.  EXODUS simulations allow engineers to assess more potential designs than conventional methods and are free of the potential danger and high cost of conventional human evacuation trials.

By embedding evacuation dynamics into the design process, EXODUS enables design engineers to develop safer and more effective layouts. The software runs on PCs and is user-friendly, with its advanced user-interface enabling non-experts to use it.

The Queen’s Anniversary Prizes for Higher Education honour exceptional contributions made by universities and colleges to national life, and are the most distinguished award that can be made to a UK institution for higher or further education.

The University of Greenwich’s citation recognises it as a ‘world leader in the area of evacuation model development.’ EXODUS’s use by businesses and public authorities ‘greatly enhances public safety’, and the group’s specialist training offers ‘vital expertise to the user community worldwide.’

“We are proud of the contribution EXODUS is making to world safety, and it is a great honour to receive this national award,” said Professor Ed Galea, Director of the Fire Safety Engineering Group. “Our objective is to help design engineers to save lives; we turn their PCs into virtual laboratories in which they can reach the optimal design solution cost effectively and safely. By subjecting our ‘virtual’ people to a living-hell of perpetual emergencies, designers not only develop

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safer designs, but reduce the need for real people to be exposed to the risk of evacuation trials.”

The realism of the software is based on data from experiments, including some performed by the group, as well as eyewitness accounts from actual disasters. Tailored versions of the software are now available for building, aviation and maritime applications.

Design engineers and safety regulators in 22 countries are using buildingEXODUS to improve the evacuation performance of a wide range of buildings, from cinemas to airports, hospitals to schools. Notable applications include the Dusseldorf airport redevelopment, the Greenwich Millennium Dome and the Sydney Olympic Stadium.

The aircraft evacuation version, airEXODUS, has been used by the world’s leading aircraft manufacturers, including Airbus and Boeing, to improve the safety performance of aircraft, ranging from regional jets to the Airbus A380 SuperJumbo.

The marine version of the model, maritimeEXODUS, is being used in a wide range of maritime applications, from a Thames Riverboat to the next generation of Royal Navy ships.

Additional applications of EXODUS include the simulation of people movement in non-evacuation conditions to improve the comfort and efficiency of layouts and operational procedures, as well as public safety.


For further information, contact:

Carl Smith

Public Relations Unit

University of Greenwich

Tel: 020 8331 7663

Email: c.d.smith@gre.ac.uk




Award Citation:

The University is a recognised world leader in the area of evacuation model development.  Use of its software technology by businesses and public authorities greatly enhances public safety and its specialised training offers vital expertise to the user community worldwide.

The biennial Queen's Anniversary Prizes for Further and Higher Education recognise and reward the outstanding contribution that universities and colleges in the United Kingdom make to the intellectual, economic, cultural and social life of the nation.   It is the most distinguished award that can be made to a UK institution for higher or further education. Prizes have been awarded biennially since 1994 and some twenty Prizewinners have been selected in each of the four previous Rounds.  The Queen will present a Gold Medal and an illuminated Prize Certificate to the EXODUS team at an honours ceremony at Buckingham Palace in February 2003.

Judging for the prize is very thorough, with winning entries going through from 10 to 12 independent external assessments by different specialists.


The EXODUS suite of software was selected as the overall winner in the IT industry ‘Oscars’ - the British Computer Society (BCS) IT Awards. 

maritimeEXODUS won the CITIS (Communications & IT in Shipping) Award for Innovation in IT for Ship Operation. 

maritimeEXODUS also won the RINA/LR (Royal Institution of Naval Architecture/Lloyds Register) Award for ship safety.

Furthermore, the UK MOD classified EXODUS as, ‘the escape tool that most closely meets the needs of the MOD for the development of warship escape design guidance and assessment’.

The Fire Safety Engineering Group

Located in the School of Computing and Mathematical Sciences, The Fire Safety Engineering Group consists of a 30-strong multi-disciplinary team of mathematicians, behavioural psychologists, fire safety engineers and computer scientists. The group was established in 1986 and the modelling philosophy behind EXODUS has been developed and refined through 13 years of research into understanding and simulating evacuation, as well as the rigours of the peer review process in both academic journals and doctoral examination.  The group has also produced the SMARTFIRE fire simulation software.


Professor Ed Galea is the founding director of the Fire Safety Engineering Group (FSEG) at the University of Greenwich, where he has worked in fire safety research since 1986. His work in fire safety engineering began after the tragic Manchester Boeing 737 fire, when he was commissioned by the UK Civil Aviation Authority to simulate the spread of fire and smoke in the disaster.  Since then his research has expanded to include the modelling of evacuation, people movement, fire/smoke spread, combustion and fire suppression in the built environment, rail, marine and aviation environments.  Professor Galea is the author of over 100 academic and professional publications related to fire.  He serves on a number of national and international standards and safety committees concerned with fire and evacuation including BSI, ISO, IMO and SFPE.  His research and consultancy activities have been supported by a wide range of European and North American organisations.


EXODUS is written in C++ using Object Orientated techniques, and utilises a rule-based approach to control the simulation.  For additional flexibility these rules have been categorised into five interacting submodels that operate on a region of space defined by the geometry of the enclosure. Internally, the geometry is covered in a mesh of nodes. The nodes are linked by a system of arcs.  Each node represents a region of space typically occupied by a single person.  EXODUS also uses virtual–reality technology to generate a three-dimensional virtual-reality graphical environment.  This brings the results of the computer simulation to life, assisting the design engineer to visualise and more easily interpret the outcome of simulations.


Embedded into EXODUS software is data from survivor accounts of real tragedies, as well as experiments undertaken by the Fire Safety Engineering Group to address shortfalls in knowledge, such as how people evacuation from overturned railway carriages and the reaction of different demographic groups to heel and pitch on ships.  Such data greatly enhances the realism and sophistication if the EXODUS sub-models.

Movement submodel specifies how individual occupants move around a space, including speed, overtaking, side stepping, or other evasive actions.

Behaviour submodel determines an occupant’s response to the current prevailing situation on the basis of his or her personal attributes.  The behaviour submodel functions on two levels: global and local: local behaviour determines an individual’s response to his or her local situation, while the global behaviour represents the overall strategy employed by the individual.

Occupant submodel describes an individual as a collection of defining attributes and variables such as gender, age, max running speed, max walking speed, response time, agility, etc. Some attributes are fixed while others are dynamic, changing as a result of inputs from other submodels.

Hazard submodel controls the atmospheric and physical environment.  It distributes pre-determined fire hazards such as heat, smoke and toxic products throughout the atmosphere and controls the opening and closing of exits, etc. 

Toxicity submodel determines the effects on an individual exposed to toxic products distributed by the hazard submodel.  These effects are communicated to the behaviour submodel, which, in turn, feeds through to the movement of the individual.


An EXODUS model passes through four development phases during its specification:

Geometry Mode, which allows the engineer to define the physical layout of the structure.  This can be constructed manually using the interactive tools provided, imported from a CAD DXF file or loaded from a library case.

Occupant Mode is used to generate the group of people to be used in the evacuation study.  As in the Geometry mode, interactive tools are provided to assist with population definition. Entire populations or subgroups of people can also be stored and recalled from a user-defined library.

Scenario Mode is used to control scenario specifics such as exit capabilities, fire hazards, etc. 

Simulation Mode allows a simulation to be run either interactively or in batch mode.  This mode provides the engineer with an interactive 2D view of the structure that graphically displays the evacuation as it evolves.  The engineer can also use this mode to specify a range of scenario specific data that can be saved for analysis.