Access-to-Egress II: Subject Management and Injuries in a Study of Emergency Evacuation Through the Type-III Exit
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Access-to-Egress II: Subject Management and Injuries in a Study of Emergency Evacuation Through the Type-III Exit

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    Final Report
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    The ethical treatment of human research subjects is a requirement of federal regulations. The accomplishment of this goal requires that important bilateral information-sharing between research staff and subjects occurs at all phases of the research process, and that significant safeguards are provided to minimize the potential for injury. Research designs must provide for these activities without negative consequences to the acquisition of valid and reliable data. Information presented here is an overview of subject- and injury-management procedures utilized during an aeromedical research project designed to assess the effects of changes in airplane cabin configuration and operation on emergency evacuation through a Type-III overwing exit, as well as an analysis of the injuries sustained by subjects during the study. Subject management procedures included medical screening to assure a basic level of subject health and fitness, briefings applicable to important safety issues in the research process, alteration of the research method to eliminate identified sources of injury, and informed subject consent. All 2,544 subjects completed 4 evacuation trials for a total of 10,176 crossings through the Type-III exit. Fifty-eight (2.3%) of the subjects sustained some type of injury during the evacuations, for a rate of 0.0057 injuries per exit-crossing. Eleven of those injuries (18.6%) were deemed serious. Forty injuries (69.0%) were sustained during high-motivation trials. Differential subject management by flight attendants affected the occurrence of injury, necessitating procedural changes halfway through the study to reduce the injury rate. Injuries are an undesirable corollary to research involving humans. There is a significant potential for injuries in studies simulating emergency evacuation from airplanes, in which subjects must navigate a chaotic aircraft cabin, compete for the available egress route, and maneuver through the exit to the outside. Experimental evacuations through the Type-III exit illuminate the effects of important factors that influence evacuations, the potential for injury, and improved safety for actual emergencies. Adherence by researchers to the requirement for ethical treatment of research subjects, including attention to factors that affect the number and severity of injuries, enhanced Type-III exit experimental evacuation outcomes and reduced injuries. Application of these principles to transport airplane operations should yield similar improvements to safety.
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