Office of Operations
21st Century Operations Using 21st Century Technologies

6.0 Looking Ahead

The need for improving communications to the public was a key finding in the Catastrophic Hurricane Evacuation Plan Evaluation: Report to Congress published in June 2006 ( While states along the Gulf Coast used a variety of methods, including radio and the Internet, to inform residents before an evacuation began, the study found that the methods for communicating during an evacuation were less developed. The study noted that 511 telephone systems and highway advisory radio could help the public by providing route-specific information, but in many locations the equipment for monitoring real-time traffic conditions was not deployed. While the study focused on the Gulf States, the findings are likely to be just as valid for other parts of the country.

As the public sector continues to improve its plans for dealing with disasters, a key element must focus on dissemination of information to the public. Despite common misperceptions about how people behave in a threatening situation, research has shown that panic is not the norm and that people make decisions that are rational based on the available information and their particular situation. Thus, providing the public with the most accurate and actionable information available can only serve to assist agencies responding to an emergency.

ATIS assets can become an even greater component of information dissemination during disasters than they have been in the past. However, transportation, public safety, and emergency management agencies need to develop a clear strategy on how ATIS fits within the overall emergency management plan and develop clear processes for utilizing ATIS to assist with evacuations and keep travelers out of harm's way when disasters impact the transportation system. This document is intended to assist agencies in that endeavor.

This document is part of FHWA's Emergency Transportation Operations (ETO) program aimed at supporting the activities of state and local agencies. Additional ETO materials can be viewed at

Additional Resources

Federal Emergency Management Agency. Guide for All-Hazards Emergency Operations Planning, State and Local Guide (SLG) 101, 1996 (

Federal Highway Administration, Office of Operations. Simplified Guide to the Incident Command System for Transportation Professionals, FHWA-HOP-06-004, EDL #14234, February 2006 (

Federal Highway Administration, Office of Operations. Concept of Operations for Emergency Transportation Operations. Prepared by Science Applications International Corporation, January 2004.

Lindell, Michael K. and Ronald W. Perry. Communicating Environmental Risk in Multiethnic Communities. Sage Publications, Thousand Oaks, CA, 2004.

Perry, Ronald, and Lindell, Michael. Emergency Planning, Washington, D.C.: John Wiley, 2006.

Wolshon, B., "A Way Out: The Emergence of Homeland Security Stresses the Importance of Evacuation Management." Transportation Management and Engineering, April 2004, Vol. 9, No. 2, pp. 16-21.

U.S. Department of Transportation
Research and Innovative Technology Administration
Federal Highway Administration

U.S. Department of Transportation
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Washington, DC 20590

ITS Joint Program Office, HOIT
Toll-Free “Help Line” 866-367-7487

FHWA Office of Operations, HOP

EDL 14339


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