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

7.2 Evacuation Planning

The necessity of evacuation planning is an important lesson learned. According to the article “Chlorine Spill Forces Evacuations,” entities that had planned for emergencies and/or evacuations felt that, as a result, the situations were handled well. During the evacuation of residents of Graniteville, South Carolina, due to a train derailment, the article reported “local emergency officials said Friday that they were able to move quickly to the collision scene, aided by practice drills and heightened planning since the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.” Planning appears to be critical to a successful evacuation.

The following tools can support evacuation planning:

Oak Ridge Evacuation Modeling System (OREMS) – OREMS is a software program developed by the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, “to analyze and evaluate large-scale vehicular emergency evacuations, conduct evacuation time estimation studies, and develop evacuation plans,” as reported on the Oak Ridge National Laboratory Web site.

Possible uses of the OREMS software include:
  • Modeling large transportation networks (covering emergency planning zones of thousands of square miles)
  • Determining the feasibility of evacuation without detailed route planning
  • Identifying best evacuation routes
  • Identifying bottlenecks that would constrain the flow of traffic
  • Assessing the effectiveness of alternative traffic control strategies
  • Assessing the effectiveness of different evacuation strategies
  • Estimating traffic speed and other measures of effectiveness on specific roads or potions of the network
  • Estimating clearance times for the network or portions of the network.

Evacuation Traffic Information System – The Evacuation Traffic Information System is a Web-based system tool for sharing information among states and agencies.

According to the TR News article “Emergency Evacuation: Ensuring Safe and Efficient Transportation out of Endangered Areas,” ETIS (Evacuation Traffic Information System) was developed in response to the evacuation for Hurricane Floyd. “The ETIS (Evacuation Traffic Information System) graphically displays the evacuation status of coastal counties, counties, contra-flow segments in use, and the number of vehicles expected to cross state lines. The ETIS (Evacuation Traffic Information System) is the first step in using technology to improve coordination among the various state and federal agencies involved in hurricane evacuations.”

The ETIS tool is designed to help state and local managers anticipate state-to-state traffic. It is not a modeling simulation tool, but rather a tool to share information during an evacuation that may help decision makers make adjustments in their evacuation routing. System – VisualRisk developed this tool to assist in evacuation planning. It was designed to assist emergency management agencies in meeting Federal Emergency Management Agency requirements. However, the tool can be used by officials to review other community mitigation plans—identifying hazards in other areas that could impact their community and the need for an evacuation.

According to the Web site (, “One of the key features of the is the ability to collate information. That is, all local community mitigation plans are integrated into the appropriate county mitigation plan, which in turn can be rolled-up into a unified, standardized and complete State Hazard Mitigation Plan. The Plan produced from allows state officials and emergency managers to:
  • Evaluate and compare unrelated hazards in different areas
  • Assign ranking priorities
  • Allocate financial resources for specific mitigation projects.”

This tool allows emergency officials to understand potential hazards near their community and helps them plan for the consequences of disasters.

Planning Action Checklists – The Association of Bay Area Governments developed this checklist as a tool that can be used for post-disaster transportation and utility disruptions planning. It includes planning actions for transportation, utility, and emergency service providers to examine methods to keep providing transportation services or to plan around expected transportation interruptions during earthquakes.

As reported by the Association of Bay Area Governments on their earthquake preparedness Web site: “Transportation disruption planning is critical. Employees, customers, and suppliers will need to use roads to get to work, as well as to gain access to key facilities that need repair. Everyone should anticipate transportation disruptions in areas through which they generally travel.”

The Association has developed several checklists including:

  • General checklist
  • Transportation providers checklist
  • Utilities checklist
  • Emergency service providers checklist
  • Local government checklist
  • Private companies and residents checklist.

The checklists can be used to assist in the recovery after an evacuation and the restoration of normal operations.

Micro Simulation Programs – There are multiple micro simulation programs that can be used to support evacuation planning. One example is Dynasmart-X, which “combines advanced network algorithms and models of trip-maker behavior in response to information in a simulation-based framework to provide: reliable estimates of network traffic conditions, predictions of network flow patterns over the near and medium terms in response to various contemplated traffic control measures and information dissemination strategies, as well through the network,” (

A second program is CORSIM, which “is a comprehensive microscopic traffic simulation, applicable to surface streets, freeways, and integrated networks with a complete selection of control devices (i.e., stop/yield sign, traffic signals, and ramp metering). CORSIM simulates traffic and traffic control systems using commonly accepted vehicle and driver behavior models. CORSIM combines two of the most widely used traffic simulation models, NETSIM for surface streets, and FRESIM for freeways,” as reported at

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