BMT"s novel idea of articulating a full scale ship"s corridor model with pistons and then filling it with smoke and volunteers, gave a very different picture.
Until just two years ago, "committee opinion" was the main input on passenger response times in fire evacuations according to Jenny Gyngell, a project manager for BMT Group.
However, this was before the FIREEXIT project took on checking the data for actual trials on board a ferry. BMT"s novel idea of articulating a full scale ship"s corridor model with pistons and then filling it with smoke and volunteers, gave a very different picture.
The data derived from it was extremely interesting. When fed into software which added evacuation problems like serious heel due to sinking, it showed patterns that were somewhat different to the dry models of simulated transits through a "virtual" corridor. It resulted in MSC 1238 and generated enough interest for the IMO to take it one stage further.
To this end the IMO has invited the SAFEGUARD consortium to conduct a number of real, full scale trials under the banner of Project Safeguard.
The first of the drills to take place onboard ship has just been held. Some 1,300 passengers on the Color Line ferry who said they would take part were asked to wear an infrared tag and told there would be a trial, but not told when. When the warning was sounded, the signal from the tags was picked up by a series of readers, which showed the passengers" movements up and down the corridors. It indicated f they went straight to the muster point, what paths they took, and if they seemed to get lost or went in the wrong direction.
"It has highlighted one or two aspects already," said Ms Gyngell. "Firstly, people often hadn"t looked at the muster point signs before the exercise, and secondly, the crew hadn"t realised they might have a difficult time answering everybody"s questions as well as directing the passengers."
The analysis work will add to the basic "day and night" scenarios in use at present. Two other factors planned to be evaluated are evacuations with fires (such as in an engine room) and those complicated by having the ship at various degrees of heel. All these will result in publicly available papers to be used by the IMO in its future evacuation procedure regulations.
It can be counted a success already. Color Line is thinking about running the drills every year, and passengers who took part seemed to understand the importance of the trial, even if they were courted with a prize draw. Ms Gyngell said that "though it wasn"t a publicity event, the procedure has highlighted the safety message."