The purpose of this project was to optimize football stadium evacuation time by integrating geo-computation with affordance theory from perceptual psychology to account for evacuee characteristics: age, gender, physical fitness, alcohol consumption, and prior experience attending football games at The University of Southern Mississippi (USM), evacuating from large, outdoor public places, and with hazard events.
According to the Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism (USA PATRIOT) Act, football stadiums are part of the country’s critical infrastructure warranting special government protection. Evacuation modeling was identified as an important component of game day emergency preparation. Research shows that: (1) the age, gender, and physical fitness of an individual impact his/her locomotion speed; (2) evacuation route choice is influenced by the perception of its safety and effectiveness; and (3) prior evacuation experience affects evacuation decision-making processes. By including these factors, this research, conducted at USM’s M.M. Roberts Stadium, represents the reality of evacuee movement and behaviors that influence stadium evacuation time.
A questionnaire-based survey was administered to game attendees prior to a USM home game to gather evacuee attribute data that influenced locomotion speed. This data, plus secondary spatial data, were used in an agent-based model to model individual evacuee movement. The time required for all evacuees to exit the stadium and campus was 165.16 minutes. This time was significantly shorter than evacuation times from the same location using non-location-specific evacuee locomotion speeds, suggesting that use of local data is vital to accurately depicting evacuation time. The findings also indicated that age and gender were the two main factors that impacted locomotion speeds.
The main contributions of this study were: (1) optimizing evacuation time by using location-specific locomotion speeds and (2) providing insights into how evacuees’ physical and mental health influences their evacuation decision-making processes. The U.S. government and sports management industry could use these findings to increase game day safety and security. Due to the spatiotemporal nature of evacuation modeling and perceptions of evacuees that impact evacuation time, this research contributed to the fields of geography, computer science, sport management, psychology, and emergency management.