Using catastrophe theory to analyze subway fire accidents

  • Xiaofei Lin
  • Shouxin Song
  • Huaiyuan ZhaiEmail author
  • Pengwei Yuan
  • Mingli Chen
Original Article


Catastrophe theory can describe a continuous process that is undergoing abrupt changes. A dynamic process can be considered to be a swallowtail catastrophe if it has the following six qualities: bimodality, divergence, sudden transitions, hysteresis, inaccessibility and irreversibility. In this paper, the swallowtail catastrophe model is applied to describe the changing dynamic process of subway fire accidents. This dynamic process is also proved to have the six qualities of a swallowtail catastrophe. By using the swallowtail catastrophe model, we construct a model for the subway fire accidents, and we present analyses of subway fire accidents. On the basis of the model and analyses, the dynamic changes in the subway fire accident evolution process can be described with a novel approach. The causes of fire accidents in subways are also discussed, from the perspective of the fire triangle and four elements of an accident. We hope that this study’s theoretical descriptions and discussion of subway fire accidents will facilitate a profound analysis of subway safety.


Subway Fire accident Swallowtail catastrophe Fire triangle Fault tree analysis (FTA) 



This paper is supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China, Grant No. B16A300010, the National Social Science Foundation of China, Grant Nos. 13AZD088 and 17CGL073, the Natural Science Foundation of Shandong Province, Grant No. ZR2017BG009, Beijing Planning Office of Philosophy and Social Science, Grant No. 16GLC050, and Shandong Provincial Social Science Planning and Management Office, Grant No. 16DGLJ10. At the end of this paper, I’d like to express my sincere thanks to the editors and reviewers who gave us the rigorous, enlightening and reflective proposals to improve the quality of the paper and the direction of in-depth study.


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Copyright information

© The Society for Reliability Engineering, Quality and Operations Management (SREQOM), India and The Division of Operation and Maintenance, Lulea University of Technology, Sweden 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Economics and ManagementBeijing Jiaotong UniversityBeijingChina
  2. 2.Civil Engineering and Agriculture SchoolAnhui University of TechnologyMa’anshanChina
  3. 3.Business SchoolUniversity of JinanJinanChina

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