[Engineering Reports] Auditory evacuation beacons can be used to guide people to safe exits, even when vision is totally obscured by smoke. Conventional beacons make use of modulated noise signals. Controlled evacuation experiments show that such signals require explicit instructions and are often misunderstood. A new signal was designed that combines a chime sound with a spoken message (“exit here”). In a tunnel environment the evacuation success rate without prior instructions to the participants was 16% for conventional beacons and 87% for the newly designed beacons. Also, a novel way for coding the relative distance to the exit was used. By exploiting the precedence effect through the application of time delays, subjects were induced to naturally “follow” the sound. During an experiment in the mockup of a ship’s interior 88% of participants followed the intended route compared to 38% with the conventional approach. The optimum time delay between beacons was found to be approximately 20 ms.
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