Modeling and Simulation of Public Response to Threat and Attacks


Project Details


One key thrust of START's research concerns likely behaviors within the public in the event of a major attack or warning of an imminent terrorist threat. This project synthesizes the state-of-the-art regarding community public evacuation and building occupant evacuation to identify 1) how public education impacts household readiness; 2) how warning information impacts public protective action behavior; 3) the behavioral assumptions within traffic evacuation models; and 4) the behavioral assumptions in building evacuation flow models. 

Primary Findings:

Topic 1: Modeling How Public Education Materials Impact Household Readiness: The range of factors past research found to correlate with increased household readiness was assessed. Repetitive modeling revealed the small subset of factors that have a major role, and how they link to form the social process that coverts educational information materials into actual public readiness action-taking. The same findings apply to readiness for terrorism as for other high consequence low probability events. Recommendations for practitioners were specified.

Topic 2: Modeling How Warning Information Impacts Public Protective Action Behavior: The range of factors past research found to correlate with public protective action-taking in response to warnings was assessed. Repetitive modeling revealed the key factors that influence public response and how they link to form the social process that converts warning information into protective action. The same findings apply to warnings regarding terrorism as to other hazards. Application recommendations for practitioners were catalogued.

Topic 3: Behavioral Assumptions in Traffic Evacuation Models: Existing traffic models in use today are not based on realistic human behavior assumptions. The topical areas where more informed assumptions could be added to these models were identified.

Topic 4: Behavioral Assumptions in Building Evacuation Flow Models: Existing building evacuation models do not adequately, if at all, integrate knowledge about human behavior into their evacuation estimates. Recommendations about how this could be accomplished were specified.


The project used two methods to bridge the gap between existing basic research findings and applications by practitioners. The first was comprehensive reviews of existing appropriate published research literature in particular research areas on applicable topics. The second was meta-analyses of selected available data sets and on existing models in the published research record.


Project Period: