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)

Evacuation Stakeholders’ Roles and Responsibilities

Evacuations occur to safeguard lives and property and reduce personal suffering. A successful evacuation relies on human, material, financial, technological, and equipment resources being available at the right time, at the right place, and in the right quantity. Success also depends upon information, communication, coordination, and knowledge to make the process work. The personnel involved must know what to do and when to do it, and must have the information, materials, and equipment available to execute their responsibilities. These resources may vary depending upon the role that the individuals play in the evacuation response.

Effective evacuation planning requires a partnership among all stakeholders. Evacuees are the most important stakeholders in any evacuation operation. In addition, many government and non-government personnel may be involved in the planning process and eventual execution of an evacuation operation. Evacuation planning at the local, regional, and State levels should involve representatives of all departments and organizations that have a role in an evacuation. This includes the potential evacuees (people from high-risk areas) as well as non-traditional partners, such as transportation and transit organizations, public schools, city planners, the Chamber of Commerce, and adjacent communities who may be impacted by an evacuation.

The State or local emergency management agency usually leads the evacuation planning process. Emergency managers must include transportation agencies—particularly the right mix of subject matter experts and those with appropriate authorities—in the evacuation planning process as key stakeholders since most people use the highways to evacuate whether they are traveling in their own vehicle, or on a bus, or using the roadway to access a train or plane. Transportation professionals can provide a wealth of information to support evacuation planning such as traffic counts, roadway capacity, planned highway construction, maps, and other such data necessary to develop a good plan and can access a wide variety of tools to facilitate the evacuations along roadways. Transportation officials should work with traditional disaster planners or operations staff, including those that:

  • Make decisions
  • Generate, collect, and/or analyze information
  • Design strategic, operational, and contingency plans
  • Manage operations and resources for the response
  • Execute emergency (including evacuation) orders and response operations.

Table 1 summarizes some of the key stakeholders in evacuation operations and their potential roles in evacuation planning.

Table 1. Key Stakeholders in Evacuation Operations
Category Description Location of Operation Role During Evacuation Operations

On-Scene Operational and Tactical Response Resources

Emergency Managers & ESF Lead and Supports, including Transportation (ESF # 1) Local and State professional staff Emergency Operations Centers (EOCs) Gather key players. Collect and analyze information. Recommend actions. Order and provide resources for emergency operations.
Transportation Officials Local Departments of Transportation (DOTs) DOT offices;
Traffic Management Center/Traffic Operations Center (TMCs/TOCs); Local EOC
Collect analyze and report traffic information. Provide evacuation route plans. Conduct traffic incident management with first responders and local law enforcement. Order and provide traffic operations resources to support evacuation and other movement coordination operations. Provide information to the Public Information Officer (PIO) at the EOC or Joint Information Center (JIC).
Decision Makers Mayors, County Commissioners etc. and their staffs; Governors for State assistance City Hall; County; Commission Chambers; EOC Collect information and expert recommendations about whether to order an evacuation, what type, when to do it, and how large the area is to be evacuated. Order evacuations. Request assistance from neighbors, and State and Federal governments through mutual-aid agreements or other prescribed methods.
First Responders Police, Fire, Rescue, Emergency Medical, Evacuation Operations Team (EOT) Incident Command Post; On-scene First line of response. May coordinate volunteers. Provide knowledge of local area. Provide on-ground damage information & identification of needed resources. Provide security for homes/businesses once evacuees leave.
Volunteer Organizations (including Federal capabilities that serve as local assets during disasters [*]) American Red Cross, Salvation Army, Local charities, AmeriCorps,* Citizens Corps* Shelters; Comfort stations; Mobile feeding units; On-scene Provide relief services. Provide support services to those evacuating along highways, including comfort stations. Open and staff shelters.
Private Sector Partners Highway contractors, trucking industry, towing industry, gasoline suppliers, traffic engineers, medical facilities, Hotel/motel associations Various locations including EOCs and business locations; On-scene Provide personnel, technical assistance, equipment and supplies. Provide information on available transportation units, gas, food, or other commodities they can provide. Provide private health and medical care facilities. Can assess and detail facility capabilities and whether they need additional assistance in evacuating patients.

State Operational and Support Response Resources

Transportation Officials State DOTs State EOC; State DOT offices; TMCs/TOCs Collect analyze and report traffic information. Provide evacuation route plans. Conduct traffic incident management with first responders and local law enforcement. Order and provide traffic operations resources to support evacuation and other movement coordination operations. Provide information to the Public Information Officer (PIO) at the EOC or JIC. Provide information to FHWA and other impacted State DOTs as necessary.
First Responder Support National Guard On-scene Supplements first responders. Supply transportation services, people, food, temporary sheltering, communications, medical services, clerical services, security, etc.
Volunteer Organizations Animal shelters Humane Society Shelters; On-scene Coordinate the transportation and sheltering of animals

Federal Support Response Resources

Volunteer Support National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disasters (NVOAD) National office in Washington, DC Provide referral services to volunteer organizations around the country and can provide support. A consortium of volunteer organizations that can support relief efforts depending on the type of disaster.
National First Response Teams Urban Search and Rescue teams; DMATs; Debris Removal On-scene in affected jurisdiction Provides support to local organizations
National Support Capabilities Evacuation Liaison Team At FEMA Atlanta office Provides technical advice on organizing, conducting, and managing evacuations