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The effects of cultural differences between the west and Saudi Arabia on emergency evacuation—clothing effects on walking speed



Evacuation analysis is an integral part of safety when dealing with the increasing number of complex building designs around the world. During such analysis, engineers use predetermined input values based on experiments for factors such as alarm reaction time and walking speed. However, much of the data currently in use were collected in Western countries, such as the UK and the USA, and were applied regardless of where the building will be constructed. This research explores the suitability of applying such data cross-culturally, with a focus on Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia is of particular interest because of cultural differences in traditional clothing, personal space, fire training, and religious requirements, such as gender segregation. Because these factors could impact evacuation behavior and movement speeds, data were collected and analyzed on the effects of traditional Saudi clothing on movement speeds of different genders in Saudi Arabia. Outcomes of our analysis indicate that the length and type of clothing worn by women in Saudi Arabia have a significant effect on their walking speeds on flat surfaces and when ascending and descending stairways. This paper highlights the effects of cultural differences and presents a set of data that can be used when conducting an evacuation analysis within Saudi Arabia. Copyright © 2014 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.