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Immersive Emergency Preparedness 

Virtual Reality-based Active Shooter Preparedness Training for Hospital Environments 

VR-based training offers immersive scenarios, bridging the gap between theoretical knowledge and real-world reactions, which is especially important for intense emergencies. A spotlight area of our study is healthcare - a sector frequently at risk during active shooter incidents. Ethical concerns, patient mobility, and the built environment complexities present unique training challenges. Our research tailors training programs to such specific needs and seeks to optimize performance and preparedness for healthcare workers during emergencies. Moreover, we are extending our research to include safety-driven design principles within buildings. Recognizing that effective architectural decisions can guide individuals safely during emergencies, we are working on comprehensive connections between human behaviors and various personal, social, and environmental factors. We explore experiential learning, assess the significance of interactivity and immersion in VR, tailor simulation-based training for diverse environments, and implement safety-oriented design strategies for building emergencies.

Status: On-going 

Understanding the Effectiveness of Virtual Reality-based Training for Building Emergencies 

Most people receive training on building emergencies from traditional methods such as pamphlets, drills, lectures, and educational videos. A new training method based on virtual reality (VR) has been increasingly used in various high-risk engineering industries such as construction, mining, and chemical laboratory to deliver health and safety training. Compared to traditional training methods, VR-based training can immerse trainees in realistic scenarios and allow the hands-on practice. Even though VR-based training employs cutting-edge techniques, its effectiveness in emergency training is yet to be justified. In this study, we presents a VR-based emergence training platform for building occupants, combined with a standardized metric to evaluate the training effectiveness in an objective way.


Status: Completed

Disaster Prepared Buildings: Human-Building Interactions during Emergencies 

experiments using immersive virtual environments to advance our knowledge of fine-grained human behavior during extreme events, examining the impacts of building attributes, individual differences and different situational factors. These experiments will provide substantial data on the different behavioral responses that could be expected during emergencies. Based on the experimental results, data-driven agent models that represent different populations will be generated to be used in simulations. Using these simulations, we plan to extend the research outcomes to various possible configurations of the environment, circumstances of the emergency, and composition of the crowd. With the fine-grained human behavior data we obtained from VR experiments, we develop mathematical behavior models to establish a new generation of simulation tools to predict human behavior in emergencies. 


Status: Completed

The project investigates how built environments impact human behavior during extreme events and the influence of human-building interactions on the outcomes of these events – an area where research to date has been extremely limited. We first create immersive virtual environments (IVEs) that represent realistic building emergency scenarios, incorporating building attributes (e.g., number of exits, barriers, staggered doors), emergency characteristics (e.g., loud noise, smoke), and virtual actors (e.g., adversary/crowd behavior).We then conduct human subject

Understanding Evacuation Behavior during Fire Emergencies 

This study examines the effects of architectural visual access on people’s wayfinding behavior and evacuation performance during building emergencies using virtual reality. Fire evacuation experiments were conducted in an immersive virtual metro station, which was based on a real metro station in Beijing, China. Participants positioned among evenly or unevenly distributed crowd, were asked to evacuate the station that was designed with low or high visual access, manipulated through building design features (e.g., changing wall materials, removing columns in hallways). Crowd was presented in the virtual metro station by incorporating non-player characters assigned to different evacuation routes. To explore the possible influence of cultural background on participants’ wayfinding behavior, experiments were conducted in London, Beijing, and Los Angeles.

Status: Completed

Interdisciplinary Thinking in Extreme Events & Infrastructure Resilience


Densely populated coastal areas are globally exposed to some of the most hazardous impacts of changing climate. These areas encompass a vast economy and more than half of world’s population lives within 60 kilometers of a coast. Thriving coastal megacities host invaluable infrastructure systems that are either in place or planned for construction. Networks comprising of these systems are critical to our civilization and need a closer look in terms of their resilience against extreme events. The dramatic losses resulting from a series of natural hazards (e.g., Katrina in New Orleans, 2005 and Sandy in New York, 2012) prompted a new research focus looking into resilience of infrastructure against extreme events in coastal areas where these events are exacerbated by changing climate. This new focus in tackling one of the most compelling challenges of our time, requires  collaboration between scholars from many different research traditions, including climate science, risk assessment, development, economics, and policy analysis and so on; since the problem is unprecedented, enormous and multi-directional. We are currently focusing on frameworks designed to establish such collaboration among civil systems engineering and economics domains. The objective is to be able to assess the status quo regarding resilience of critical interdependent infrastructures in coastal areas, investigate strategies enhancing resilience at infrastructure component and network levels, and produce results that spread across involved domains to advise the decision making processes related to infrastructures in coastal areas. Infrastructures are both perceieved as engineered civil systems contributing to the built environment and as facilitators of economic output with the services they provide.

Status: Completed

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