Improving Situational Awareness in the Future Urban Environment

Michael Ferreira
Vice President
Jensen Hughes, Baltimore

Today’s tall buildings tend to be components of large mixed-use developments, where podium floors connect horizontally to malls, assembly spaces, and other structures. Exit stairways may not end directly at the perimeter public way, but rather may require a horizontal traverse through lobby, corridor, or other portion of the building. Currently navigation through these complex arrangements is guided by normal wayfinding signage in combination with the required prescriptive, code-compliant exit signs. In an unforeseen emergency event (i.e. fire or active shooter), a podium exit may become blocked or unusable, requiring a large number of occupants to locate an alternative exit in what may be an unfamiliar, if not confusing environment.

Advances in dynamic signage have the potential to greatly improve situational awareness and facilitate occupant evacuation from complex, expansive spaces. They could direct occupants away from a potentially hazardous egress route or towards routes that may be used safely. We reviewed two EU-funded programs that document available signage technology and command/control platforms, and demonstrated the effectiveness of dynamic signage in trial-tested dynamic exit routing in airport, rail, and stadium applications. We provided an overview of the application of dynamic signage for egress use in the future urban environment, drawing from lessons learned in transportation facilities, cruise ships, and other applications where early adoption of dynamic signage has taken place.