Simulation can play an important role when evaluating evacuations in emergencies, like accidents at nuclear plants or other industrial facilities, flooding or bushfires. Evacuation Time Estimates (ETE) studies are considered a way to obtain an understanding of the situation, and even to quantify improvements provided by the deployment of specific mitigation strategies. Such situations, which might include large areas and large volumes of traffic, are still challenging for many microscopic modelling tools, but it is nowadays possible to handle them using mesoscopic simulators. Being dynamic, they allow for a wide range of different scenario evaluations, including allowing complex traffic management assessment and obtaining visualization of the evolution of the evacuation process.
However, one of major challenges when facing evacuation modelling is the lack of data, either from a usually limited amount of similar experiences, and prevision of how an emergency situation can evolve, bringing engineers to set up a large amount of assumptions. Therefore, making the availability of quality real field information, and having methods to easily import them into the simulation tool, seems a significant step to ease the process.
In a current case study for bushfire evacuations in Melbourne (Australia), Aimsun mesoscopic simulation has been used to model the area. The model can be linked to devices providing the real time temperature, humidity and smoke field data, and allowed for the automatic setting of the multiple inputs for the evacuation scenarios for current and forecasted areas in danger, thus, defining which zones are prone to be evacuated while taking into account network supply constraints such as road closures. This leads to establishing methodologies where fully automated simulation-based systems can provide, in real-time, assessments in which are the best practices to follow under evacuation situations, thus becoming an essential piece of an Emergency Decision Support Systems that are used for evacuation operations and public outreach.