DOI: 10.2166/hydro.2023.194 ISSN: 1464-7141

Development of an agent-based model to improve emergency planning for floods and dam failures

Darren Lumbroso, Mark Davison, Mark Wetton
  • Atmospheric Science
  • Geotechnical Engineering and Engineering Geology
  • Civil and Structural Engineering
  • Water Science and Technology


The Life Safety Model (LSM) is an agent-based model which assists with emergency planning and risk assessments for floods and dam failures by providing estimates of fatalities and evacuation times. The LSM represents the interactions of agents (i.e. people, vehicles, and buildings) with the floodwater. The LSM helps to increase the accuracy of estimates of loss of life and evacuation times for these events by taking into account a number of parameters which are not described in empirical models, such as the people's characteristics (e.g. age and gender), building construction types, and the road network. The LSM has been applied to three historic flood-related disasters: the 1953 coastal floods, in the UK; the 1959 Malpasset Dam failure, in France; the 2019 Brumadinho tailings dam disaster, in Brazil. These illustrate how the LSM has been verified and improvements to evacuation routes, early warnings, and the refuge locations could have reduced the number of fatalities. The value of using the LSM is not to calculate the ‘exact’ number of flood deaths or evacuation times, but to assess if emergency management interventions can significantly reduce them. The LSM can also be used to assess whether the societal risk posed by dams and flood defences is ‘acceptable’.

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