DHS Program Develops Mass Evacuation Simulation for Stadiums

Sports venues are supposed to be prepared for emergencies — such as a bombing or a lone shooter — that could require a quick evacuation of more than 70,000 fans.

But venue managers “are not training their staffers as well as we would like,” says Lou Marciani, director of the National Center for Spectator Sports Safety and Security. “They’re not doing training exercises,” he says, noting that it’s costly to conduct live drills for events of this magnitude.

Marciani is one of the leading researchers in a project that seeks to fill these training deficiencies. The Department of Homeland Security’s science and technology directorate partnered with the University of Southern Mississippi and several other organizations to create a computer program called SportEvac that uses human avatars to simulate the behaviors of panicking crowds in sports stadiums.

“Our goal was to try to find ways to reach security planners and give them a tool suite they can use for practicing these scenarios,” says Marciani.

The program can be customized to fit the specifications of individual stadiums. It uses algorithms to predict the behaviors of large groups, and it factors in variables such as irrational, drunken fans and wheelchair-bound spectators.

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