L. De Temmerman, Ph. De Maeyer, N. Van de Weghe

Ghent University, Geography Department, Ghent, Belgium


The focus of this research is to investigate the wayfinding strategies and route choices for emergency services, in particular, police services. In order to achieve this objective, during several months, members of the police force of Ghent (Belgium) registered their routes using a GPS device. For each registered trajectory, they completed a survey containing several questions about that specific journey. The recorded tracks were analysed and compared with theoretically calculated paths, like the shortest path, fastest path, and simplest path, calculated by different route planning software. Further, this study analyzes how the participating emergency service officers decide which trajectory they consider as optimal. We also registered which tools the police officers use during their emergency intervention: maps, GPS, guidelines via radio communication and so on. In addition, the participants were asked why they preferred a particular path. Analysis revealed that the route followed by experienced police officers and the theoretically computed paths linking the two nodes in the street network often differ significantly. After analysing all the data, the paper presents which theoretical path matches best the human behaviour, using cartographical representations. Finally, the wayfinding strategies, which are typical for the target group, are described.