Keele University policing researchers collaborate with Transport for London to understand public behaviour during evacuations

The Keele Policing Academic Collaboration (KPAC) is working with Transport for London (TfL) to analyse passenger behaviour during incidents in order to understand the impact that this can have on public safety during evacuations.

KPAC brings together one of the UK’s most significant academic policing research collaborations, focused on partnerships between academics and regional, national and international policing partners.

Professor Clifford Stott, Director of the Keele Policing Academic Collaboration (KPAC), said: “By working with our partners our research will help inform TfL and other civil contingency responders how they can develop better policies, exercises and training that will improve the way they respond to mass emergencies.”

KPAC is currently undertaking research to advance theoretical understanding of the social psychological processes that govern how crowds respond during different types of incidents as part of a wider research network project which is being led by the University of Sussex. This research is funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), part of UK Research and Innovation, and is undertaken in collaboration with St Andrew’s, Edinburgh, and Lund universities.

As part of this research, Keele University has signed an Academic Confidentiality Agreement with TfL, granting them access to CCTV footage from incidents that resulted in evacuations on the London Underground system. The data gives KPAC researchers a unique insight into what happens to people in real-time during such incidents.

A specialist secure video laboratory has been developed by KPAC to analyse this newly secured data, with investment from Keele’s Faculty of Natural Sciences. The KPAC team will conduct focused analysis of selected incidents, which will involve videography, interview, and post-hoc field observation to understand when and how the public perceive danger and act in a crisis, and what roles civil contingency responders such as emergency services play in these processes.

Professor Stott continued: “The agreement with TfL was complex given the highly sensitive nature of the data. We worked very hard to make sure it could be shared and processed in ways that protected people’s privacy and complied with GDPR.”

“By working with our partners our research will help inform TfL and other civil contingency responders how they can develop better policies, exercises and training that will improve the way they respond to mass emergencies.”