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December 2007

In Reply Refer To: HOTO-1

Dear Colleague:

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's ability to manage and operate the transportation network has improved considerably. Recognizing the unique challenges posed by the disaster environment on mobility and the safe and secure movement of people and goods, the U.S. Department of Transportation's Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) seeks to improve evacuation planning and implementation by bringing new ways of better using the transportation network, before and during evacuations, to the emergency management community.

The focus of this primer is no-notice evacuations. In late October 2007, as this primer was being completed, we were reminded once again about the reality of evacuations. We are only now learning about the breadth and damage of the wild fires in California, which has led to the largest evacuation on California history, and the ripple effect including numerous road closures that those evacuations have caused.

These no-notice incidents occur for many reasons, such as forest fires, major storms, chemical spills, or terrorist acts. Their common denominator is that they occur with little or no warning, which presents unique challenges for the safe and secure movement of people and goods. With limited time and information available to make decisions about evacuations, agencies' efforts at planning ahead of time are essential.

This document is one in a series of the FHWA-produced primer series and covers the use of the highway system during evacuation operations when no advance planning is possible. This primer is directed toward transportation officials, first responders, and emergency managers who will plan and execute evacuation efforts. The document include a discussion of the planning process used to develop an evacuation plan; explanation of no-notice incidents and their likely scale and consequences; considerations of the unique aspects of no-notice incidents and the need for different transportation strategies and tactics; discussion of evacuation planning issues and how the planning process needs to account for the no-notice factor; and a checklist that planners can use in preparing a plan for a no-notice evacuation, whether natural or man-made.

Evacuation operations are conducted under the authority of, and 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 Operationsat to comment on this document, to share experiences, and to offer suggestions to improve this primer and its companions.


Signature - Jeffrey F. Paniati Associate Administrator for Operations

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