Evacuation of a theatre: Exercise vs. calculations

Henry Weckman (Corresponding Author), Simo Lehtimäki, Seppo Männikkö

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

27 Citations (Scopus)


An evacuation exercise without previous notice was arranged with over 600 participants in September 1995 at a leading theatre during a dress rehearsal of an upcoming play. The exercise was organized by the theatre in co‐operation with fire authorities and an insurance company.

The exercise was started shortly before the end of the first act of the play when the fire drop‐curtain of the stage went down and a pre‐recorded announcement was read over the public announcement system. No smoke or other effects were used. The audience left the auditorium in an orderly fashion and the auditorium was completely evacuated in 3 min 37 s. Everyone left the auditorium through the normal entrance. No signs of panic were observed during the evacuation. The personnel of the theatre carried out their duties planned for emergency situations without any complications. After the exercise, the response of the audience was very positive, but a number of the actors were quite upset and requested the theatre management never to organize such exercises while they were on stage.

The quantitative data of the evacuation exercise have been used to assess various kinds of calculation methods, one of which is a traditional hand‐calculation method and four generally available computer models. Of the computer programs one is an optimization model while three are different simulation models. The results show that the calculations concerning the movement phase of the evacuation are in reasonable agreement with the observations from the exercise.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)357-361
JournalFire and Materials
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 1999
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed


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