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)

State and Regional Coordination Resources

Local jurisdictions often establish mutual-aid agreements with surrounding jurisdictions or may participate in regional planning organizations as a means to tackle disaster planning and operations. These should be the first source of aid and coordination for any evacuation operation that exhausts local resources. When these resources are not enough, the local jurisdiction may reach out to its State for personnel, materiel, assets, technical assistance, and funding. Requests should be channeled from the local EOC to the State EOC1, consistent with State protocols, usually following the National Response Plan (NRP) guidelines or the National Incident Management System (NIMS). This aid may also take the form of direct State support of the evacuation operation when an event overwhelms or exhausts local resources. The State may be able to coordinate evacuation plans, information, and needs with potentially impacted areas or shelters established outside of a jurisdictional boundary, as well as, coordinate with surrounding States that may be impacted by the evacuation. The State may be able to supplement personnel for the EOT. As part of evacuation plan development, local jurisdictions should identify any existing regional working groups, organizations, or geographic designations in which their jurisdiction is a part. One resource that may be available to State officials is the Emergency Management Assistance Compact (EMAC) managed by the National Emergency Management Association (NEMA). Through EMAC, State officials may request specific additional assistance for personnel and equipment, including assistance from State DOTs and all 50 participating States. These requests are made at the State level to ensure that priorities are set to address the overall situation in the State, without localities competing with each other for resources. Local planners should work with their counterparts at the State level to understand the process for making requests to EMAC and others for assistance. In 2006, NEMA published the EMAC 2005 Hurricane Season Response After-Action Report which contains a wealth of information about EMAC, how it works, and recommendations for improving it. A link to that report is included in the “Other Information Resources” section of this primer.

Benefits of Including Transportation-Related State and Regional Coordinating Entities

As noted above, local jurisdictions may be able to call upon State and regional transportation organizations to assist in evacuation planning and execution. One potential source of assistance is the area’s Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO), which provides comprehensive transportation planning for the region. Federal regulations require each urbanized area with a population over 50,000 to establish an MPO. In cooperation with the State and other transportation providers, the MPO is responsible for carrying out the metropolitan transportation planning requirements. The MPOs have a wealth of information that is useful for evacuation planning including demographic data, roadway capacity data, planned roadway improvements, traffic count data, and transportation modeling capabilities to predict traffic congestion. Some MPOs may also have responsibility to support the DOT, local government, and/or emergency management agency in evacuation modeling. In addition, some MPOs are also operational organizations and may oversee or operate the area’s TMC, coordinate transit services, and have other resources to assist in evacuations.

Many areas also have Regional Planning Councils, Councils of Government, Local Emergency Planning Committees, and other such organizations. These organizations can generally provide transportation and other demographic data on a regional basis that may be useful to local emergency planners. In the Mid Atlantic region, a multi-state volunteer organization has formed to focus on emergency readiness, response, and recovery. The group, the Mid Atlantic All Hazards Forum, includes a variety of public and private organizations that must work together in an emergency.

One of the benefits of EMAC is that it provides assistance between member States and requests for assistance can be made in advance of an event such as a hurricane. The agreement allows for the sharing of personnel, resources, and equipment, including transportation resources, across State lines in times of disaster. The deployment of resources through EMAC is done in coordination with NRP resources. When a Governor declares a state of emergency, that State contacts the EMAC National Coordinating Group. They have a team that works with the State to determine its needs and the cost and availability of those resources. The State then completes requisitions for assistance and negotiates the cost, and the resources are sent to the State. The State later reimburses the cost to the responding States. EMAC can provide a variety of support including to EOCs. For transportation-related resources, EMAC can provide personnel, equipment and materials to perform damage assessments, debris removal, roadway repair, hazard mitigation, aviation support, communications, construction, and even mobile kitchens that can be used to support field personnel.

1. States maintain an EOC at some level of alert 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. State EOCs serve as the State Warning Point as part of the National Warning System (NAWAS). The NAWAS is a national, interconnected telephone system that can be used to warn areas of impending emergencies, which is one of many means by which local jurisdictions may learn of events with notice that may require execution of evacuation plans.