Creating smarter healthcare facilities that flow better for diverse users

Planning for the emergency evacuation of healthcare facilities is a challenging task. Hospitals often have expansive and complex building structures. Wards vary enormously in their design and function, with different layouts, equipment, patient profiles and staffing structures. There are likely to be large numbers of vulnerable occupants throughout a hospital – a far greater proportion than in other buildings. Many patients will require assistance to reach a place of safety during an emergency incident.


We understand that staff are crucial to the success of a hospital evacuation. For progressive horizontal evacuation (to the next ward on the same floor), staff may use beds to transport patients. For vertical evacuation (down stairs to a ward below or to an exit), they will rely on specialist equipment. Planning the training and timeline for emergency procedures needs detailed consideration of the time taken for staff to assist patients.

We have collected data at hospital sites that help us to advise hospitals on how to improve their hospital evacuation times by assessing the movement of patients between wards. We consider the layout of the building or full hospital site, the location of the incident (e.g. a fire), the number and training level of staff, and the physical and mental capability of patients. We consider the time taken to prepare dependent patients for evacuation, and the performance of specialist equipment such as evacuation chairs and ski mats. This enables us to analyse emergency procedures and provide recommendations to improve evacuation times and patient safety.


Our services for healthcare facilities include:

  • Collating and collecting data on existing user behaviours and circulation patterns to inform operational decisions and management plans
  • Assessing the design/operation of healthcare facilities, using a range of tools including qualitative and quantitative assessment, to identify opportunities to improve the performance of ingress,egress, internal and vertical circulation
  • Analysis of areas subject to specific flows or types of activity e.g., catering facilities, pinch-points, check-in kiosks and information (wayfinding support and visibility analysis)
  • Process optimisation advice to reduce staff journey times, mitigate/manage waiting and queueing times and improve patient experience
  • Detailed design advice and capacity assessment to determine space requirements including refuge areas, key evacuation routes and waiting areas
  • Assessing compliance with firecode guidance on fire safety in the design of new healthcare buildings and extensions and testing fire evacuation procedures
  • Advice and recommendations to test NHS fire improvement plans to minimise the risk to patients, visitors and staff during fire evacuation
  • Assessment of the Required Safe Egress Time (RSET) towards hospital fire safety engineering calculations
  • Analysis of emergency plans to improve horizontal and vertical evacuation procedures
  • Improving hospital evacuation times and patient safety by assessing the movement of patients between wards, accounting for the layout of the building or full hospital site, the location of the incident (e.g. a fire), the number and training level of staff, and the physical and mental capability of patients
  • 2D video healthcare modelling to assess the movement of patients based on dependency, staffing levels and equipment available (Legion Spaceworks)
  • Evaluation of multiple emergency scenarios including evacuation during day-time and night-time shifts, using 3D Pathfinder visualisation of people movement by different users to inform better decision making.


Dr Aoife Hunt

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