Good Practices in Transportation Evacuation Preparedness and Response
Results of the FHWA Workshop Series
Phase 1 - Preparation and Activation
In Preparation and Activation or phase 1 of the tabletop exercise, participants were provided background information on the current situation and then provided some warning that an emergency situation was going to occur such as an approaching hurricane, wildfire outbreaks, or severe weather causing power outages. Because the emergency situation had not yet completely unfolded, participant discussion focused on planning, preparedness, and pre-activation of emergency procedures.
Coordination for Emergency Preparedness
- Safeguard Iowa Partnership - This Partnership is a voluntary coalition of business and government leaders to prevent, prepare for, respond to, and recover from disasters through public-private collaboration. See http://www.safeguardiowa.org/ for additional information.
- Building and Managers Association (BOMA) - A voluntary organization involved in emergency and evacuation planning in Chicago. Many BOMA members have identified alternate business locations (hot sites) outside the Central Business District (CBD) in preparation for an emergency.
- Required Evacuation Plans for Structures - The City of Chicago through its Office of Emergency Management and Communications (OEMC), requires evacuation plans for buildings with more than four stories. Plans must be submitted to the OEMC. This advance information allows both responders and potential evacuees to be more prepared in the event of an evacuation in the CBD.
- Annual I-64 Lane Reversal Evacuation Exercise - The Commonwealth of Virginia holds a lane reversal exercise for I-64 prior to the start of the annual hurricane season with participants from the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT), Virginia State Police (VSP), National Guard, Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation (VDRPT), Virginia Department of Emergency Management (VDEM), and Virginia Department of Health (VDH). The purpose is to test their readiness to implement lane reversal if required and to identify and implement any "lessons learned" as a result of the exercise.
- Annual Meeting between Adjoining States Regarding Evacuation - Virginia and North Carolina meet prior to start of hurricane season and include both Departments of Transportation (DOTs) and law enforcement agencies from both states at the meeting. The available evacuation routes for both states require coordination as each state's evacuating traffic could affect the other state's evacuation operations.
- State Emergency Operations Center (SEOC) - In Iowa, the SEOC is the entity responsible for ensuring state agencies in Iowa meet all requirements of the National Incident Management System (NIMS). The SEOC is operated by the Iowa Homeland Security and Emergency Management Division (HSEMD).
- Point-to-Point Shelter Designations - In Texas, cities pair up and agree to take the other's evacuees. The system is overseen by the Texas Emergency Management Agency (TxEMA). The purpose of the shelter designations is to maintain a more even distribution of evacuees so that some shelters do not receive more evacuees than they can accommodate. It is also useful to evacuees to know ahead of time, exactly where they should go to find shelter.
Fuel Equipment and Supplies
- Fuel Availability for Evacuees - The Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) conducts pre-storm polling of gas stations along major evacuation routes and pushes fuel to critical emergency response functions and gas stations who need the supply for evacuees. Post-storm, the Florida Division of Emergency Management (FDEM) uses fuel tenders to refuel vehicles directly. Florida now has access to 27 tenders available in the southeastern United States. A Florida law passed in 2006 requires gas stations along evacuation routes to have an emergency generator to allow for the pumping of fuel even if the power is out in an area.
- Fuel Availability for Transit Agencies - Houston Metro maintains a "stockpile" of fuel. For transit agencies, this is necessary to evacuate vehicles from flood-prone areas. For all agencies, the stockpile can be used to ensure that rescue and recovery vehicles can operate even when commercial service stations cannot.
Public Information and Education
- Text Alerts to the Public - Starting in the fall of 2008, the City of Chicago established an emergency text alert messaging system, "Notify Chicago." Alerts can be sent to cell phones, Blackberries, and other hand held devices to registered Chicagoans. For further information see http://webapps.cityofchicago.org/ChicagoAlertWeb/. Another example is California's Office of Emergency Services (OES) Emergency Digital Information System (EDIS) system which also provides emergency alerts to subscribers.
- Multilingual Communications - The Los Angeles Police Department uses a broadcasting system that can broadcast information in 32 languages. Due to the numerous languages spoken in the Los Angeles region, this ability to broadcast in many languages is critical to ensure that people hear and can understand the emergency information being broadcast.
- Public Education on Evacuations - All of the State DOTs who participated in the Tallahassee workshop have contraflow plans in place due to their locations in hurricane prone areas. They agreed it was important to educate/prepare people to "expect the worst" when it comes to traffic conditions when contraflow is underway. The DOTs emphasized that it is important that evacuees understand that it will still take many hours to evacuate even with contraflow operations in place, so they should plan to evacuate when the evacuation order is given.
- Accommodating Families of First Responders - In Mississippi, families of response workers are allowed access to government facilities and shelters to ensure they are accommodated so the first responders in their family are not worried about their well-being in an evacuation situation. In another example, VDOT encourages all employees, especially those with first responder duties in an evacuation, to have a plan in place to accommodate their families during an evacuation.
Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS) Including Transportation Management Centers (TMCs)
- Text Alerts - Text alert subscriptions are provided by the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) through its TMC (iltrafficalert.com). These alerts provide the subscribers with the most real-time traffic information available in the area and can be used to provide emergency information.
- Coordinated TMC Information - The TMCs that are members of the Gary-Chicago-Milwaukee (GCM) Corridor provide coordinated traffic information to the public on both a routine and emergency basis. Such information provides a more regional outlook of traffic conditions allowing motorists to make decisions about their choice of routes. GCM members include the Indiana Department of Transportation (INDOT), IDOT, and Wisconsin Department of Transportation (WisDOT).
- Mobile Video and Data Collection Units - VDOT leases mobile video and data collection units (wireless communication, real time video, traffic counter, traffic speeds, and weather data) that can be deployed around the state in an emergency or for special events to supplement permanent ITS equipment.
- Regional Integration of Intelligent Transportation Systems (RIITS) - RIITS is a regional transportation information sharing network operated by the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) and is used to share both daily and emergency information. The system is located at the Los Angeles Regional TMC and information is provided to over a dozen participating agencies and to commercial information providers.
- Pre-positioning ITS Resources - VDOT pre-positions its I-64 lane reversal and service patrol resources in the Tidewater area prior to an evacuation. This action provides supplemental service levels in advance of the actual evacuation.