Emergency Transportation Operations

Highway Evacuations in Selected Metropolitan Areas: Assessment of Impediments

Las Vegas, Nevada

#30-Most Congested
#30-Population (1,866,000)
INRIX® National Traffic Scorecard 2009

map of Las Vegas, Nevada

The Plan

The following information provides some details regarding evacuation planning statewide, with the focus on the large metropolitan area of Clark County (Las Vegas). The Southern Nevada Evacuation/ Emergency Planning project reviewed the Clark County Emergency Operations Plan and found the plan comprehensive and generally complete. Moreover, DHS gave the plan high marks. The review also found that the Clark County local area plan does not delineate extensive roles and responsibility for Nevada Department of Transportation (NDOT) participation.

The project recommends that future updates to the Clark County emergency plans would benefit if NDOT ensured that the local area emergency plans include more detail on NDOT's roles, responsibilities, and capabilities. Respondents indicated that this could be achieved by simply referencing the NDOT emergency plans—primarily the District-Level plan—in the local area emergency plans, rather than expanding the emergency plans with extensive NDOT-specific detail. Moreover, with the relatively recent expansion of Advanced Transportation Management Systems (ATMS) in the Freeway and Arterial System of Transportation (FAST) TMC and on the Las Vegas Metropolitan area freeway system, the region would benefit from an ATMS inventory and capabilities and better understanding of how ATMS applications could be used by emergency managers.

Respondents provided the following plans for this study, all of which are the most recent:

  • State Comprehensive Emergency Management Plan (SCEMP) 2005
  • NDOT State Level Emergency Operations Plan
  • NDOT District Emergency Operations Plan
  • Clark County Emergency Plan 2004

The NDOT, when possible, obtains copies of the evacuation plans for each jurisdiction within the State to determine any identified tasks that would require NDOT participation. The large majority of pre-determined evacuation routes are State/Federal highways, which fall under NDOT's responsibilities. Once NDOT determines its roles, NDOT incorporates these details into the District-level plan.

The NDOT Maintenance and Operations Division, Emergency Management Section, is covered by performance measures which are reported to the State legislature. These performance measures require that each NDOT staff be trained and exercised on the Emergency Operations Plan and that NDOT updates the Plan on a 3-year cycle.

The statewide plan covers the entire State at a high level. The NDOT also maintains a Southern Nevada Evacuation Plan, but it is principally a strategic plan. It does not provide details on NDOT response to an evacuation event. The NDOT currently is involved in the development of a statewide evacuation plan being funded with a DHS Grant. The statewide evacuation plan is currently conducting a traffic study to determine the most appropriate evacuation routes and the responsibilities of the different agencies, both State and local, to support an evacuation along those routes. The current focus of this planning effort is Northern Nevada.

Top Highway Impediments

Top Highway Impediments

  • Insufficient Lanes & Daily Congestion
  • Coordination with Other States on Evacuation Routes
  • Communications Systems Would Not Support Evacuation Operations
  • Deployable Traffic Signs and Evacuation Route Signage
  • Traffic Flow Monitoring

Study respondents reported that the most significant impediments along NHS routes that may impact effective large scale, mass evacuations from the Las Vegas metropolitan area include:

  1. Insufficient Lanes & Daily Congestion - The Las Vegas area has designated the following major evacuation routes in the event a large-scale evacuation is needed: I-15 North to Mesquite, NV; U.S. 95 North to Reno, NV; I-15 South to Southern California; U.S. 95 South to Laughlin, NV; and U.S. 93 East to Kingman, AZ. Considering the current population of the Las Vegas valley along with the high numbers of visitors in the area on a daily basis, in the unlikely event of a large-scale, mass evacuation, capacity would be exceeded if the evacuation were implemented in a short period of time.
  2. Coordination with Other States on Evacuation Routes - Most evacuation routes designated by Southern Nevada emergency managers lead to other States. Coordination with the other involved States is currently taking place through quarterly meetings of the emergency managers from the DOTs of each State. There is currently no formal structure to these coordination meetings. Details have not yet been determined on the specific logistics of moving large numbers of people from one State to the next.
  3. Communications Systems Would Not Support Evacuation Operations - Respondents stated that the communications system, including older analog cellular communications technology and equipment on portable DMSs, would not be adequate to support communication needs among responders working on the NHS roads or connecting the responders with TMCs or EOCs as they relay critical information.
  4. Deployable Traffic Signs & Evacuation Route Signage - Agencies within the area maintain a supply of portable trailblazer signs that can be quickly deployed and operated to guide motorists on detour routes during an emergency evacuation. However, the signs currently cannot be enabled remotely. In addition, local and regional emergency and traffic management agencies are considering a permanent signing program that would designate primary evacuation routes, similar to signing programs that designate hurricane evacuation routes in other States.
  5. Traffic Flow Monitoring - Local agencies are working cooperatively with FAST to develop a plan for the deployment of limited permanent traffic flow monitoring capabilities at strategic locations outside the beltway on the primary mass evacuation routes.

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