Tunnel fire safety

Global risk management experts are calling for fire education initiatives to be included in driver safety programs so that drivers are better prepared for an emergency if faced with it on the roads.

The call follows a new research study where researchers from University of South Australia and the National Technical University of Athens assessed fire safety mechanisms of road tunnels, finding that risks to human life could be reduced through greater awareness and education.

Using a newly developed evacuation model, researchers were able to simulate the behaviours of trapped-commuters and their movement to estimate potential outcomes and fatalities following a fire in a road tunnel.

UniSA Adjunct Associate Professor Konstantinos Kirytopoulos says being able to forecast human behaviour in a fire-risk scenario provides critical information for safety analysts and tunnel managers.

“To mitigate potential fire accidents and disastrous consequences in road tunnels, safety analysts not only have to fulfil standard regulatory requirements, but also need to conduct a complex risk assessment which includes defining the issues, identifying hazards, calculating and prioritizing risks, and doing so for different environments,” Assoc Prof Kirytopoulos says.

“An evacuation simulation model such as ours is particularly valuable because it lets analysts thoroughly inspect all parameters within an emergency.

“Uniquely, it also simulates human behaviour and movement in conjunction with the use of safety mechanisms, letting us project the likelihood of successful evacuations under different combinations of human behaviour, safety procedures implementation and safety infrastructure employed, which provide an extremely useful tool for tunnel safety analysts.

“Safety levels are dictated by the operation of the whole system – organisation, technical and human elements – so anything we can do to increase the success rates of these individual factors can have a massive impact on the whole.

“Having a familiarity with emergency protocols in a confined or enclosed space such as a road tunnel can help trapped-commuters to appropriately respond, and this, we believe will improve successful evacuations.”

Road tunnels are fundamental elements of road transport systems contributing to profitable economies and societies. Given the sheer number of vehicles on the road – about 262 million passenger cars in the European Union; more than 272 million vehicles

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