This NCHRP Web-Only Document 216 presents the research performed under the NCHRP Project 20-59(47) by Texas A&M Transportation to develop proposed guidelines for emergency exit signs and marking systems (i.e., visual and audible) for highway tunnels and incorporates the most current technology and results of recent studies of human response in emergency evacuation. The final product is a proposed set of guidelines for emergency exit signs, markings, and messages for use in tunnels in the United States, published as a brochure, which can be found at https://onlinepubs.trb.org/onlinepubs/nchrp/nchrp_w216_brochure.pdf. The material in this report will be of immediate interest to tunnel designers, owners, and operators.
According to the International Technology Scanning Program Report Underground Transportation Systems in Europe: Safety, Operations, and Emergency Response, published by the Federal Highway Administration in June 2006, the scan team identified nine initiatives and practices currently used in Europe and not widely being used in the United States. One of the most important findings was the need for emergency management of tunnel occupants during accidents, fires, terrorist activities, and other emergencies because people within the tunnel must be their own first responders. For example, the Dutch Ministry developed and implemented emergency exit signs for tunnels depicting a white-colored running figure on a green background. Other wayfinding and marking systems may include audible signals, pathway and doorway lighting, pavement markings, and others. These all should be recognizable, identify direction and distance to emergency exits quickly and easily, and enable drivers who are unfamiliar with the tunnel layout and geometry to readily find emergency exits. Research to evaluate the existing international standards for tunnel emergency signs and marking systems considering human behavior that is not easily predictable during emergency situations may reduce the time for tunnel occupants to reach emergency exits and improve the evacuation process.