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Evacuations may involve hundreds or hundreds of thousands of people. Regardless of the numbers, in every instance, the transportation network plays a key role in evacuating people out of harm's way. Over the past two decades, the transportation community has improved its ability to manage and operate the transportation network. The U.S. Department of Transportation's Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) recognizes the unique challenges posed by the disaster environment on mobility and the safe and secure movement of people and goods. As a result, FHWA seeks to improve evacuation planning and implementation by bringing new ways of more effectively using the transportation network, before and during evacuations, to the emergency management community.

This document constitutes one volume of the Routes to Effective Evacuation Planning primer series, and covers the use of the highway system during evacuation operations when no advance planning is possible. The primer series, as a whole, captures and catalogues transportation management and operations advancements that can improve evacuation planning and operations. These primers may undergo adjustment based on new information, findings, lessons learned, best practices, and tools that local jurisdictions and states use and share as experience in conducting evacuations increases and the concept of disaster support evolves.

The Routes to Effective Evacuation Planning Primer Series will include:

Title Content
Overview: Routes to Effective Evacuation Planning This is an executive-level summary that covers the five evacuation primers. The summary focuses on the need to include transportation professionals in planning for evacuations; the importance of regional and corridor planning; the integration of transportation in mass care; and health and medical, security, and other emergency support function coordination. It also highlights best practices that have emerged from actual evacuations and tools available to local and state authorities in planning for and executing evacuations.
Using Highways During Evacuation Operations for Events with Advance Notice This is a basic-level guide on conducting planning activities for evacuations that are primarily road-based when advanced notice of the need to evacuate is available. The guide is more detailed than the overview and includes transportation elements that should be considered by local, state, and regional planning groups. (Published December 2006)
Using Highways During Evacuation Operations for Events with No Notice This guide covers spontaneous or no-notice evacuations that are primarily road-based. It considers the security environment that comes into play during a biological, chemical, terrorist, or malevolent event, as well as no-notice natural events such as earthquakes or tornadoes. This guide also addresses evacuation considerations versus shelter-in-place orders. (This document)
Evacuating Populations with Special Mobility Requirements This primer summarizes information in the other primers that touches on moving populations with special needs. It provides findings, lessons learned, and best practices that aid in developing evacuation plans for people with special movement requirements, including the elderly, those with medical conditions, and transit-dependent populations.

Evacuation operations are conducted under the authority of, and are based on decisions by, local and state authorities. This primer is intended as a tool to aid local and state planners in maximizing the use of the highway network in the development and execution of evacuation plans for their communities, states, or regions. We encourage readers to contact FHWA's Office of Operations to comment on this document, to share experiences, and to offer suggestions to improve this primer and its companions.

The U.S. Department of Transportation, Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) has four levels of operational guidance for use by local, State, and Federal planners to develop evacuation plans for personnel involved in conducting or supporting disaster operations. This document corresponds to Level 1.

Level 1 Overview and Primers AA brief concept summary of a function, team, or capability.
Level 2 Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) or Operations Manual A complete reference document, detailing the procedures for performing a single function (SOP), or a number of interdependent functions (Operations Manual).
Level 3 Field Operations Guide (FOG) or Handbook A durable pocket or desk guide, containing essential nuts-and-bolts information needed to perform specific assignments or functions.
Level 4 Job Aid A checklist or other aid for job performance or job training

This document is consistent with and supports the Emergency Support Function #1/Transportation doctrine developed to support the National Response Plan for implementation of the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act, 42 U.S.C. § 5121, et seq., as well as Homeland Security Presidential Directive 8, Domestic Incident Management.

The most current copy of this document, including any change pages, is available through the FHWA Emergency Transportation Operations Evacuation Planning Knowledge Management Center webpage at

Inquiries, information, suggested improvements, and requests for additional copies are encouraged and should be directed in writing to the U.S. Department of Transportation, Federal Highway Administration, Office of Operations, Emergency Transportation Operations Team, 400 7th Street, SW, Washington, DC 20590, or via email to For an electronic version of this document or other evacuation planning tools, please visit the Evacuation Planning Knowledge Management Center at the Emergency Transportation Operations website: and the DHS Lessons Learned Information System Content Specific page on Mass Evacuations and the Emergency Transportation Operations Special Interest Page at

J. Richard Capka
Administrator, Federal Highway Administration
October 2007

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