Agent-based Evacuation Modeling: Simulating the Los Angeles International Airport


Jason Tsai, Emma Bowring, Shira Epstein, Natalie Fridman, Prakhar Garg, Gal Kaminka, Andrew Ogden, Milind Tambe, and Matthew Taylor. 2009. “Agent-based Evacuation Modeling: Simulating the Los Angeles International Airport .” In Workshop on Emergency Management: Incident, Resource, and Supply Chain Management (EMWS09).


In the aftermath of a terrorist attack on a large public venue such as an airport, a train station, or a theme park, rapid but safe evacuation is critical. For example, multiple IED explosions at the Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) will require evacuation of thousands of travelers and airport staff, while mitigating the risks from possible secondary explosions. In such cases, it is crucial to obtain information on the fastest evacuation routes, the time needed to evacuate people, the lag between the disaster and the arrival of a bomb squad or other emergency personnel, and what tactics and procedures authorities can use to avoid stampedes, confusion, and loss of life. By understanding possible scenarios in simulation before hand, emergency personnel can be trained so that they respond in the event of an actual evacuation. Unfortunately, conducting live exercises for evacuating thousands of people is generally impossible. It would be time-consuming and would result in tremendous lost revenue. Moreover, a staged evacuation would necessarily miss crucial aspects of the required response (e.g. fear, confusion) on the part of both emergency personnel and crowd evacuees, or the exercise would be considered unethical. Smaller scale evacuation exercises miss the most important feature of an evacuation: its massive scale. Simulations provide one attractive answer. Evacuation simulations allow us to meet the required training, evacuation planning, and tactics development goals; by running large numbers of “faster than real-time” simulations, we can obtain data from large numbers of scenarios that would be near-impossible in live exercises. This information can be used by policy-makers to predetermine optimal solutions to timecritical situations such as those involving injuries, IEDs, or active shooters. Additionally, real-time simulations can be created for officers on the ground who may only see a handful of real emergencies in their careers and thus could benefit immensely from repeated scenario-style training tools to learn with. In building these simulations, we bring to bear over two-decades of experience in agent-based simulations, including battlefield simulations of battalions of virtual helicopter pilots or teams of virtual fighter pilots for DARPA’s Synthetic Theater of War program and disaster response simulations in collaboration with the Los Angeles Fire Department.
See also: 2009