טכניון מכון טכנולוגי לישראל
הטכניון מכון טכנולוגי לישראל - בית הספר ללימודי מוסמכים  
M.Sc Thesis
M.Sc StudentMorad-Zinger Einat
SubjectThe Effect of Information and Communication Technologies
(ICT) on Spatial Evacuation Behavior During
Disasters in Urban Settings
DepartmentDepartment of Architecture and Town Planning
Supervisor Professor Yehuda Kalay
Full Thesis text - in Hebrew Full thesis text - Hebrew Version


Abstract

The manner in which people behave during natural disasters has changed over the last decade, mainly due to the rapid development of information and communication technologies (ICT). The use of ICT has had a transformative effect on the ways in which people search, process and transmit information during disasters. Sensor networks distributed within the built environment collect spatial information in high accuracy and frequency about events and activities. At the same time, ubiquitous access to the  information via smart phones, owned by most citizens, makes the information accessible to everyone, from everywhere and at all times. This may have far reaching implications on the manner in which individuals make spatial decisions in emergency situations. During a disaster the reliance of individuals on ICT based external information to make spatial decisions might be essential to their survival. Hence, it may have significant implications for the manner in which individuals evacuate to safety in urban environments affecting the dynamics of the entire evacuation process.


Nevertheless, existing research fails to account for the interplay between people, cities and ICT during disasters. Existing studies in the area of evacuation behavior, assume that the knowledge available to citizens during evacuation is based on past knowledge and direct knowledge perceived by their natural senses. Consequently, the impact of ICT based external information on individuals' spatial behavior during evacuation is unknown, having potential negative implications on the match between emergency infrastructure and evacuation behavior.  


To minimize this gap, the question that underlies this research is 'If and how will ICT based external information affect the spatial decision-making process of individuals’ and subsequent  spatial behavior during emergency evacuation in urban settings?'. The research objective is to quantify the effect of  ICT based external information on the spatial behavior of evacuees and to examine whether and how it will affect the chosen evacuation route and destination of citizens in urban environments .


In order to meet the research objectives a comparative lab experiment was developed and implemented to isolate the impact of ICT based external information on the spatial decision-making of individuals during evacuation. Performing a controlled laboratory experiment enabled us to measure the effect of the independent factor (ICT based external information) on the dependent factor (spatial evacuation behavior). The experiment included two groups of participants who were asked to perform an evacuation task using a virtual map. While the first group was given direct information within their sensory-motor range, the second group received direct information and ICT based external information about the state of the environment and other evacuees in real time.


The experiment results demonstrate that the choice of evacuation routes and destinations differed significantly between the two test groups, proving the research hypothesis, that ICT based external information will affect evacuees’ spatial behavior during emergency evacuation. This effect is reflected in the nature of the chosen routes, their length, their centrality and risk level. The conclusions of the study are particularly relevant for urban planning, disaster management and for the future development of emergency evacuation guidelines.