Using Highways During Evacuation Operations for Events with Advance Notice

Routes to Effective Evacuation Planning Primer Series

Produced in collaboration with the Intelligent Transportation Systems Joint Program Office (ITS JPO)


This primer provides ideas and considerations for transportation officials and emergency managers that are applicable across the scale of evacuation events. The contents are based on the findings from numerous studies following major or catastrophic events where evacuations were ordered. The primer identifies best practices and lessons learned from these studies and captures proven formulas for successful use of the transportation network during emergency operations. It also identifies transportation technologies and tools available to aid evacuation planners and operations staff in their attempts to make maximum use of the transportation network during emergencies. In addition, the primer demonstrates ways to develop better evacuation plans through integration of transportation professionals in the process. Concepts identified in the primer series are applicable when dealing with small and large evacuation events. The primer should be one of many aids that officials use to build the best evacuation strategy possible for their community.

It is important to understand that developing a plan is only one step in an extensive process that leads to a successful outcome. Gathering together partners and stakeholders is a critical part of developing the plan and is essential to considering all factors specific to an individual community. This planning process should aid communities in bringing the right partners—including the right members of the transportation community—to the table. This primer emphasizes the follow-through process that is necessary to ensure that the plan is well coordinated and updated on a regular basis—recognizing that to be effective, the contents of the plan must be internalized and understood by the responders when an event happens. In turn, the plan developed for the community should serve as a foundation for training and exercising those who manage an evacuation and for evaluating the plan following an evacuation operation. Only after development of an evacuation plan and through these follow up activities can authorities trust that when evacuation orders need to be issued, all of the pieces will fall into place.