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Emergency evacuation software saving lives and saving millions

University of Greenwich

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Research at the University of Greenwich exploring how humans behave during emergency evacuations is saving lives. The work is helping to design safer aircraft, ships and buildings and has led to new innovative software which has been licensed to 250 organisations in 32 countries, generating nearly £1 million in licensing fees. Commercial applications of the EXODUS software have enabled designers, particularly in the aerospace industry, to bring cutting-edge proposals to life which also pass strict industry safety regulations, saving millions of pounds.

Every second counts in an evacuation. When the worst happens, people need to find the best and quickest route to safety. To create these routes, engineers and designers need to know how people are going to react during an emergency.

Initial work exploring human behaviour and evacuation modelling by the Fire Safety Engineering Group at the University of Greenwich focused on understanding what people really do during an aircraft evacuation. This work led to software that could accurately predict passengers’ behaviour in an emergency. An early prototype incorporated several factors including human behaviour, toxicological models and fire hazard data. Following further research, funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council and the UK Civil Aviation Authority, the prototype was transformed into a practical engineering tool.

Aerospace, in particular, has benefited from the software following commercialisation. For example, airEXODUS software was used during preliminary design of Airbus’ multi-billion euro A380. It assisted AIRBUS in selecting a configuration for the largest passenger aircraft in the world that would meet international regulatory requirements for evacuation. Towards the end of the design programme, the company again turned to the group and airEXODUS to de-risk the A380 full-scale evacuation certification trial, saving the manufacturer potentially millions of euros by identifying possible problems that may occur and ensuring the plane was a safe aircraft.

The software has also been used by Canadian aircraft manufacturer BOMBARDIER to assess the evacuation capabilities of a number of their aircraft in the crucial early design stages, by JET AVIATION on their private VIP configured B747 and by Mitsubishi (2008) in the design of their new regional jet.

The tool was later expanded by the group to cover the built (buildingEXODUS) and maritime (maritimeEXODUS) environments which are providing additional commercial avenues for the University. A unique version of buildingEXODUS is being incorporated within the security system of the Pentagon as part of project Pentagon Shield. Meanwhile business partner Battelle/DoD/Hughes turned to FSEG and buildingEXODUS when US based evacuation software was found to be inadequate, potentially jeopardising a multi-million dollar project. The software was also used under license by Hughes Associates to undertake an assessment of the life safety and emergency management systems within the Statue of Liberty. Following this assessment and remodelling work, the Statue of Liberty was reopened to the public by President Obama in 2009. The buildingEXODUS software has been used by building engineers all over the world on prestigious projects such as the Millennium Dome, 101 Taipei, the Beijing and Sydney Olympics and Canary Wharf London.

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Partners & Collaborators




Department of Defence (US), Pentagon

Aerospace industry

Airbus, Bombardier, Jet Aviation, Mitsubshi


Hughes Associates, Statue of Liberty


Fire Safety Engineering Group



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