Saving lives at sea: research wins scholarship for PhD student

Date of release: Friday, May 22, 2015

Innovative research that will help to save lives at sea has been recognised by an award from the Society of Fire Protection Engineers Foundation.

Robert Brown, a student at the University of Greenwich, has been granted the foundation's first annual Dr Guylène Proulx OC Scholarship. This will contribute to funding his PhD project, an important piece of work that offers new insights into passenger responses to alarms in emergency evacuations at sea. Already this research has shown that complex emergency simulations, involving thousands of passengers, can be planned successfully and executed safely in order to understand the individual paths that passengers take during the assembly process onboard large passenger ships.

The study was part of SAFEGUARD, a three-year €3million EU FP7 project to investigate and improve ship evacuation procedures. It was carried out by the university's Fire Safety Engineering Group (FSEG), a world leader in computational fire engineering that develops advanced modelling software to simulate emergency evacuations from ships, aircraft, trains and buildings. The results of the study will be presented at a future Society of Fire Protection Engineers conference.

Rob says: "It is very humbling to receive this award in the name of someone as respected as Dr Guylene Proulx, OC. While I wasn't fortunate enough to have met Dr Proulx, I have read much of her published work even before joining the FSEG team at Greenwich. Being a part of the FSEG team has been a life-changing experience for me and I owe a great deal to my supervisors Professor Ed Galea and Dr Peter Lawrence, and colleagues on the SAFEGUARD project team who worked tirelessly to carry out this research to improve human safety on large passenger ships."

This award was established in 2014 in honor of Dr Guylène Proulx, an outstanding researcher in human factors and human behavior related to fire, and a passionate advocate for fire safety awareness. Her enduring legacy is the body of her research work, as well as the future research this annual grant will enable.

Edwin Galea, CAA professor in Mathematical Modelling, Director of FSEG, supervises this research project. He says: "Rob and the project SAFEGUARD team are deeply honored by this award. The SAFEGUARD project involved understanding and quantifying human behavior in emergency situations and using that knowledge to improve life safety.

"Rob Brown's significant contributions to the development of a novel automatic person tracking system, based on infrared technology, enabled the collection of large human performance datasets, which would have been impractical using conventional methods.

"Dr Guylène Proulx was an inspiration to us all, and we can think of no better tribute to her legacy than making the world a safer place in her name. To this end, the unique data produced by SAFEGUARD has been submitted to the International Maritime Organization for consideration in updating international regulations of large passenger ship evacuation safety."

April Hammond-Berkol, Chair of the SFPE Foundation's Board of Governors, adds: "Guylène Proulx was considered by all who knew her to be one of the preeminent researchers in the field of human behavior in emergencies. This project honours her legacy by building on Professor Galea's SAFEGUARD passenger evacuation research and holds the potential to save lives."

Story by Public Relations