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Egress relates to the circulation considerations when spectators exit a sports ground.

It is widely recognised that spectators are particularly vulnerable to risk during egress – that is, as they exit the sports ground.

Even under normal conditions congestion can build and accidents occur. Individuals react and respond in diverse ways, for example according to their mood after the event, their travel plans and their perceptions of risk.

It is important for management to provide egress systems that are designed and managed to offer a safe, free flowing passage from the viewing accommodation to outside the ground, within an acceptable period of time and without encountering congestion.

To achieve this, it is vital to ensure that the pressures which can occur during egress are contained and controlled by close attention to the detailed design of those elements that form the egress system, such as stairways and ramps, vomitories and barriers.

Overall, in order to achieve safe egress in all conditions, designers and management should ensure the following:

  • There are sufficient exit routes and exits, distributed proportionately around the ground.
  • Spectators do not have to travel excessive distances in order to leave the viewing accommodation and enter into a free flowing exit route.
  • The exit routes and exits are wide enough to allow the capacity of the viewing accommodation which they serve to exit within an appropriate time.
  • Provision is made to control the flow of spectators as they enter an exit route.
  • Exit routes should not narrow at any point along their length unless mitigating measures are in place.
  • All exits routes and exits are clearly identifiable in both normal and emergency conditions.

These points are covered in detail in chapter 10 of the Green Guide.

Types of egress

Management should provide, and plan for spectators to exit under three different sets of conditions.

Normal egress

Normal egress is defined as egress from the sports ground at the end of an event using normal circulation and exit routes, under normal conditions.

Emergency egress

Emergency egress is defined as egress from the sports ground at an unscheduled time, as the result of an incident – such as a fire – occurring most likely, but not exclusively, within the sports ground.

It will typically involve the evacuation of all spectators at the same time, using not only normal circulation and exit routes, but also additional exit routes, doors or gates intended for use only in the case of an emergency.

Emergency egress may include the pitch or area of activity  as part of the route leading to a place of safety, provided that such a measure forms part of the management’s contingency planning.  

Exceptional egress

Exceptional egress is defined as egress from, or movement within a sports ground which, in response to exceptional circumstances – such as a terrorist threat or attack, occurring either inside or outside the ground – may require procedures other than those put in place for normal or emergency egress.

As with the two other forms of egress, these procedures will need to be set out in a contingency plan and may include the use of the pitch or area of activity as a holding area.

Exceptional egress could involve one or more of the following:

  • a full evacuation of the ground
  • a phased evacuation
  • a partial or zonal evacuation
  • a directional evacuation
  • an invacuation*
  • a partial invacuation*

*invacuation refers to the process of moving people within a sports ground in response to an external threat

Clearly the decision as to which course of action to take will need to be based upon the best interests of all people present within the ground.

In exceptional circumstances it may be appropriate not to take any of the actions listed above but to invoke a lockdown of the ground, in order to prevent movement either inwards or outwards.

Note also that in all of the above examples of exceptional egress, the time constraints relative to both other forms of egress (normal or emergency) may reasonably be set aside.

Egress flow rate calculations

The flow rate, also known as the rate of passage, is the number of people who can pass through a particular point in a given time, and forms a fundamental part of the calculation of the capacity of the exit system.

The Green Guide outlines the maximum egress flow rates as:

  • 66 persons per metre width per minute on a stepped surface
  • 82 persons per metre width per minute on a level surface

Basing the design of a level circulation route on a flow rate calculation of fewer than 82 persons per metre width per minute will achieve more comfortable circulation.

This calculation is used for the exit and emergency exit capacity calculations.

We have provided freely available worked examples, which demonstrate this calculation.

Factors that could impact the flow rate include:

  • The audience profile; for example if it includes a significant number of children, elderly people or disabled spectators.
  • The location and levels of use of any commercial or catering outlets, television screens, toilets or other amenities situated along the exit route.
  • The design and physical condition of the exit routes; for example, the number of stairways, the design and projection of handrails, the quality of directional signs, lighting levels and underfoot conditions.
  • Event specific factors such as weather conditions, the availability of alcohol, the timing of the event’s end, and the outcome of the event.