Academic Commons

Articles

Evacuating Damaged and Destroyed Buildings on 9/11: Behavioral and Structural Barriers

Stellman, Steven D.; Kravitt, Alexandra; Groeger, Justina L.; Brackbill, Robert M.

Introduction
Evacuation of the World Trade Center (WTC) twin towers and surrounding buildings damaged in the September 11, 2001 attacks provides a unique opportunity to study factors that affect emergency evacuation of high rise buildings.

Problem
The goal of this study is to understand the extent to which structural and behavioral barriers and limitations of personal mobility affected evacuation by occupants of affected buildings on September 11, 2001.

Methods
This analysis included 5,023 civilian, adult enrollees within the World Trade Center Health Registry who evacuated the two World Trade Center towers and over 30 other Lower Manhattan buildings that were damaged or destroyed on September 11, 2001. Multinomial logistic regression was used to predict total evacuation time (less than 30 to ≤60 minutes, greater than 1 hour to less than 2 hours relative to ≤30 minutes) in relation to number of infrastructure barriers and number of behavioral barriers, adjusted for demographic and other factors.

Results
A higher percentage of evacuees reported encountering at least one behavioral barrier (84.9%) than reported at least one infrastructure barrier (51.9%). This pattern was consistent in all buildings except WTC 1, the first building attacked, where greater than 90% of evacuees reported encountering both types of barriers. Smoke and poor lighting were the most frequently-reported structural barriers. Extreme crowding, lack of communication with officials, and being surrounded by panicked crowds were the most frequently-reported behavioral barriers. Multivariate analyses showed evacuation time to be independently associated with the number of each type of barrier as well as gender (longer times for women), but not with the floor from which evacuation began. After adjustment, personal mobility impairment was not associated with increased evacuation time.

Conclusion
Because most high-rise buildings have unique designs, infrastructure factors tend to be less predictable than behavioral factors, but both need to be considered in developing emergency evacuation plans in order to decrease evacuation time and, consequently, risk of injury and death during an emergency evacuation.

Files

  • thumnail for Groeger_2013_EvacBarriers_PrehospDisMed.pdf Groeger_2013_EvacBarriers_PrehospDisMed.pdf text/pdf 512 KB Download File

Also Published In

Title
Prehospital and Disaster Medicine
DOI
https://doi.org/10.1017/S1049023X13008996

More About This Work

Academic Units
Epidemiology
Published Here
June 4, 2014
Academic Commons provides global access to research and scholarship produced at Columbia University, Barnard College, Teachers College, Union Theological Seminary and Jewish Theological Seminary. Academic Commons is managed by the Columbia University Libraries.