Office of Operations
21st Century Operations Using 21st Century Technologies Communication Staging

The type of evacuation (i.e., advance-warning or no-notice) impacts the type of communication issued. The American City and Country article “Community Evacuation: Ensuring Safe Passage” reported: “Some disasters come with notice, while others hit without warning. As a result, planners have to factor in lead times for communicating and implementing evacuations. For some planners, time is on their side. For example, in Grand Forks, emergency managers monitored the development of a major spring flood in 1997 by tracking winter snowfall and melting rates. ‘We geared up slowly and reported regularly to the public through the media,’ Sieber says. ‘The long lead time enabled us to plan a two-stage evacuation. The first stage was voluntary; second came an ordered evacuation.’”

Real-Time Information – To be of use to evacuees, evacuation information needs to be in real time. The following information is cited in Disaster Response and Evacuation User Service: An Addendum to the ITS Program Plan:

“(a) Provide real-time information to evacuees regarding: the services available at the evacuation destinations and along the evacuation routes. In recent evacuation operations, motorists were frustrated with the lack of information regarding hotel rooms, gas, bathrooms, restaurants, and shelters. In addition, evacuees were not informed about accommodations for people with special needs (e.g., disabled, elderly and pets/livestock).

(b) [Provide] the evacuation route conditions such as the expected travel time to their destinations, incidents, road closures, lane closures, weather, the route to a certain destination, and the availability of alternative routes. In recent evacuation operations, motorists were left without information regarding what to expect on their trips while waiting for hours in traffic.

(c) [Provide] information regarding conditions in their home counties. This has been a problem because the media at evacuation destinations is not normally interested in broadcasting information about counties that are not in their coverage areas.

(d) [Provide] information regarding available transit services supporting evacuation. Provide alternative evacuation destinations to evacuees that request this information. In recent evacuations, many motorists left their homes without knowing where they are going.”

According to the report, during Hurricane Floyd, officials and evacuees expressed dissatisfaction with the “lack of information regarding travel conditions and services along the routes and at evacuation destinations.”

February 7, 2006
Publication #FHWA–HOP-08-015