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)

On-Scene Operational and Tactical Response Resources

When an evacuation order is issued, the hub of information gathering and decision making related to an evacuation occurs at an Emergency Operations Center (EOC). The Department of Transportation (DOT)—at the local, State, or National levels—should send a representative to the appropriate EOC. For transportation agencies with Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS), their Traffic Management Center (TMC) or Traffic Operations Center (TOC) may serve as a transportation-specific operations center and provide valuable services in aiding evacuation operations. In some cases, the TMC and the EOC are co-located; while, in most others, they are separate. Linking them electronically enables the EOC staff to view the same information as the TMC staff.

Benefits of Including Transportation Professionals as Support to the Operations and Tactical Responders

In addition to participating at the EOC, the transportation disciplines should have representation on the Evacuation Operations Team (EOT). The EOT comprises personnel from a variety of disciplines, including (but not limited to) Traffic Incident Management (TIM) teams, public safety officers (police, fire, rescue, and emergency medical services), road maintenance workers, debris clearance personnel, utility representatives, and mass care specialists.

To support emergency operations activities, transportation organizations can supply information, personnel, equipment, and supplies on the scene to aid in an evacuation. The transportation personnel should work with the Incident Commander and the EOT to provide the necessary resources to support the evacuation. Transportation agencies have their own radio communications systems that can be used to request additional resources and coordinate among the various teams they may have on-scene. They can provide critical data for the evacuation including traffic counts, and information on congestion status, incidents requiring emergency response, contraflow operations, the availability of transportation human resources, ITS equipment, the status of work zones on the roadway, and transit resources for evacuees including those with special needs.

Transportation agencies can provide experts in planning, transit, traffic engineering, highway construction, and maintenance. For example, maintenance personnel or contractors can provide supplies for rest areas or assist with debris removal, and construction staff or contractors can assist with securing work zones or repairing roadway damage. Traffic engineering staff can assist with ITS resources, timing traffic signals, and providing traffic control devices such as cones, barriers, and signs, to assist in directing traffic during the evacuation.