Transportation Evacuation Planning and Operations Workshop
U.S. Department of Transportation Federal Highway Administration
Held in Conjunction with the National Hurricane Conference
March 21-22, 2005
New Orleans, LA
Table of Contents
|AASHTO||American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials|
|DOTD||Department of Transportation and Development|
|EMD||Emergency Management Division|
|ELT||Evacuation Liaison Team|
|EOC||Emergency Operations Center|
|ETIS||Evacuation Traffic Information System|
|FAA||Federal Aviation Administration|
|FDOT||Florida Department of Transportation|
|FEMA||Federal Emergency Management Agency|
|FHWA||Federal Highway Administration, USDOT|
|GDOT||Georgia Department of Transportation|
|HEADSUP||Hurricane Evacuation Analysis and Decision Support Utility Program|
|HURREVAC||Hurricane Evacuation Software|
|ITS||Intelligent Transportation Systems|
|NOAA||National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration|
|OEP||Office of Emergency Preparedness|
|ROC||Regional Operations Center|
|USDOT||United States Department of Transportation|
|USGS||United State Geological Survey|
|VDEM||Virginia Department of Emergency Management|
|VDOT||Virginia Department of Transportation|
The Transportation Evacuation Planning and Operations Workshop was held in New Orleans, LA, on March 21-22, in conjunction with the 2005 National Hurricane Conference. Nearly 35 individuals attended the workshop.
The workshop objectives were to:
- Share updates on transportation plans, Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS) deployments, and institutional arrangements associated with transportation operations during hurricanes.
- Discuss the Evacuation Liaison Program and identify areas for improvements/refinements.
- Share information about upcoming activities and conferences supportive of transportation operations.
Welcome and Introductions
Michael Foran of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) provided a brief overview of the workshop and then led participant introductions. Mr. Foran explained that the purpose of the workshop was to review State and Federal evacuation experiences during the 2004 hurricane season and to discuss some aspects of the 2003 hurricane season. In addition, a highlight of updates for the coming season would be discussed. He mentioned that the agenda provided an opportunity for Federal and State officials to share insights and lessons learned from evacuation events for the purpose of improving coordination and cooperation among agencies during these events. Mr. Foran encouraged attendees to participate in the discussions and noted that the workshop format would emphasize information sharing.
Greg Jones of the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) then offered some introductory remarks. He stated that this was the fifth time that the evacuation workshop had been held. Mr. Jones observed that the 2004 hurricane season had been very active and that the workshop provided States with an opportunity to discuss what worked well and what did not work well during evacuations. He also encouraged attendees to share experiences and participate in discussions.
State representatives presented evacuation planning and operations projects and offered lessons learned from developing or applying new evacuation techniques.
Michelle Palmer, PBS&J
Michelle Palmer of PBS&J presented a summary of the Evacuation Traffic Information System (ETIS) activities conducted during the 2004 hurricane season. She reminded the audience that Hurricane Floyd led to the development of ETIS to facilitate information sharing and planning across state boundaries in the southeast. She reviewed several features of ETIS, including work that was performed to integrate traffic count information from South Carolina. In addition, she reported that PBS&J has added several enhancements to ETIS, including additional information layers as well as partial and full county evacuation options. In addition, Ms. Palmer reported that ETIS has been updated with the latest hurricane behavioral studies and described how PBS&J provided support to the Evacuation Liaison Team (ELT) during the 2004 hurricane season, including evacuations during Frances, Jeanne, and Ivan.
Bob Collins, PBS&J
Mr. Collins reviewed the development of the Hurricane Evacuation Analysis and Decision Support Utility Program (HEADSUP). Since 2000, Florida has been developing the HEADSUP program to manage traffic proactively during an evacuation. The capabilities of HEADSUP extend beyond the functionality of the Evacuation Traffic Information System (ETIS); while HEADSUP uses the same information as ETIS, it is more detailed and complete.
HEADSUP automatically ingests real-time traffic data from 27 strategically located traffic counters throughout the Florida to analyze evacuation conditions and assist in emergency management decisions. Its features include hourly dynamic travel demand forecasts, impact analyses of contraflow lanes, socio-economic statistics on evacuees, a map-based user interface, a traffic model that gradually loads evacuees onto the roadway network, and an archival capability which records when key events occurred during a hurricane evacuation. Among its other functions, HEADSUP can be used to:
- Determine the timing of evacuation decisions, especially for multi-regional events.
- Recommend alternate routes to direct evacuees away from potential bottlenecks.
- Provide timely information to the public before evacuation and after departure.
- Predict the demand on host shelters.
- Test the effectiveness of various evacuation strategies, e.g., phased evacuations, before implementation.
- Give maximum commute time to select host areas throughout the State based on location and time of departure.
- Support emergency management recommendations to the governor.
- Inform law enforcement personnel of the most congested roadway segments.
- Determine when to initiate evacuation shut down procedures.
FEMA's Hurricane Program
Brock Long, Federal Emergency Management Administration
Mr. Long provided an overview of the 2004 hurricane season. He reviewed forecasting evidence that indicates that we are in a period of high hurricane activity. He then highlighted Federal Emergency Management Administration (FEMA) activities during the recent season and offered some observations regarding evacuation planning. Specifically, he noted the need for continued training and public awareness regarding hurricane evacuations. He mentioned the usefulness of evacuation modeling as part of evacuation planning and emphasized the importance of real-time traffic information during evacuation events for use in shelter planning. Currently, ETIS does not use real-time information but instead relies on historic traffic counts. Mr. Long then described several enhancements to the Hurricane Evacuation Software (HURREVAC) program, including the addition of National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) tide gauge data, auto evacuation scenario alert, and enhanced menu options. He reviewed the activities of the Hurricane Liaison Team (HLT) and observed that the HLT is another resource to assist in evacuation planning. He then offered some observations regarding the future of evacuation planning. He suggested that the adoption of an accreditation program to train evacuation personnel would be a useful activity.
South Carolina Intergraph System
Jon Boettcher, South Carolina Emergency Management Division
Mike Wing, Intergraph Corporation
Mr. Boettcher introduced Mr. Wing of the Intergraph Corporation who then demonstrated the capabilities of the Intergraph System. The Intergraph System was developed for the State of South Carolina for use in monitoring traffic conditions in real-time during a hurricane evacuation event. The software platform is capable of extracting traffic count data from count stations located throughout the State of South Carolina for purposes of measuring actual traffic conditions. Real-time traffic information is useful in evaluating the status of evacuation efforts to determine how well an evacuation is progressing. A screening tool is used to measure reductions in vehicles speeds and field validation is conducted to determine the reasons for speed decreases. If a choke point is identified, evacuation officials can intercede to return flow or divert traffic to alternative routes. The system can also use historical traffic count information to compare evacuation conditions against typical traffic conditions to develop evacuation strategies. Additional capabilities of the Intergraph System include displaying data, accessing weather information, and accessing camera shots of affected roadways. South Carolina expects that the Intergraph System will be accessible to evacuated counties, and others, during evacuation events over the World Wide Web to enhance information sharing and response planning.
Evacuation Liaison Team
Greg Jones, Federal Highway Administration - Resource Center
Greg Jones summarized activities of the Evacuation Liaison Team (ELT) during the 2004 hurricane season. Mr. Jones stated that 2004 was a very busy year for the ELT. The ELT is a federally staffed coordination and information management team that works in conjunction with the FEMA Regional Operations Center (ROC) to facilitate multi-state hurricane evacuations. The team was formed after Hurricane Floyd to increase traffic management coordination across State borders during an evacuation. The ELT helps States share with other State and Federal emergency management, public safety, and transportation agencies timely and accurate evacuation traffic information during hurricanes though ETIS and other means. Along with coastal States, the ELT also includes States that serve as hosts during evacuations. The ELT has a simple activation process that can be triggered by a request from a State or the FEMA Regional Operations Center.
Mr. Jones reported that the ELT was staffed and operational during most of September as a result of hurricane evacuation activities. He indicated that there was an unprecedented level of cooperation among States during this period and that the ELT assisted in sharing traffic information, route advisories, and coordination of proposed lane reversals along the border of Georgia and Florida. The ELT was also used to help coordinate the closing of I-10 due to the Pensacola bridge damage, and the resulting detour routings that were put into place. He emphasized the value of real-time traffic information and Closed Circuit Television (CCTV) to monitor activities during evacuation events. He suggested that the deployment of 511 traveler information systems will provide the traveler with valuable information during evacuations and noted that these systems are being widely deployed throughout the nation. Looking forward, Mr. Jones suggested that regional cooperation building on the lessons learned from such organizations as the I-95 Corridor Coalition will be important to planning and executing hurricane evacuation strategies.
State Hurricane Evacuation Transportation Practices
Paul Clark, Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT)
Mr. Clark presented a review of activities conducted by the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) during the 2004 hurricane season. Florida experienced a total of one tropical storm and four hurricanes in 2004. The Florida Keys, the gold coast region around Tampa Bay, and the panhandle coastal area were evacuated during Hurricane Ivan, for which a variety of traveler information sources were used, including Changeable Messages Signs, Highway Advisory Radio, and 511 systems. FDOT traffic count data proved to be particularly valuable in monitoring evacuation and re-entry progress. The count data was especially useful in coordinating with the State of Georgia in making a deciding not to open contra-flow lane on I-75 in Georgia. FDOT provided the Georgia transportation officials with evidence that traffic demand was dropping, which made opening of the I-75 contra-flow lanes in southern Georgia unnecessary. FDOT has selected 50 count locations specifically to support evacuation needs. These stations provide hourly vehicle counts, average speed, and historical data for a specific day and time. Some stations have video cameras and a number support the five designated contra-flow plans in the State.
Mr. Clark described the 2004 hurricane season as very challenging due to the number of events. However, he stated that he witnessed a high level of coordination and cooperation among State agencies - both within the State of Florida as well as among affected States. He reminded attendees that the Florida web site was a key resource for information sharing and the Evacuation Liaison Team was a great benefit in coordinating planning and response during evacuation. He concluded by saying that, although Florida is still recovering from the infrastructure damage experienced during the 2004 hurricane season, he was optimistic that continued improvements in evacuation planning and execution will lead to lasting benefits.
Patrick Odom, Florida Emergency Management
Mr. Odom described emergency management activities that occurred in the State of Florida during the 2004 hurricane season. He shared detailed information describing the vulnerable population, evacuation efforts, and shelter operations during four hurricanes: Charley, Frances, Ivan, and Jeanne. Mr. Odom outlined how State response efforts were coordinated among neighboring States and how ETIS played a useful role in assessing the potential impacts of evacuation efforts. Florida plans to conduct a statewide hurricane exercise in May 2005 to test procedures. The State is also reviewing and evaluating regional evacuation plans as well as reverse lane guidelines. In summary, Mr. Odom described the 2004 hurricane season as highly active. As a result, Mr. Odom suggested that it is important to review and update plans continually, raise public awareness, and work constantly to improve emergency management efforts.
George Gele, Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development (DOTD)
Mr. Gele described the vulnerability of the coastal areas of Louisiana. He discussed how New Orleans would require 72 to 96 hours for a full evacuation and that a total of eight highways are available for use during an evacuation from the city. Louisiana will conduct an evacuation exercise in May 2005 for a category 5 hurricane to evaluate and improve evacuation and response procedures. Mr. Gele reported that the State of Louisiana is working on a project to place cameras at 22 critical locations to monitor hurricane routes. These cameras will be used to monitor traffic volume and speed as well as provide operators with a real-time view of the count location. Following Mr. Gele's remarks, representatives from the camera vendor presented a demonstration of the surveillance technology. The technology relies upon wireless communication to transmit visual images over the World Wide Web to users during an evacuation event. The use of the World Wide Web means that images can be shared with any authorized user who is using existing computer technology. Sharing images and count data during an evacuation will help agencies coordinate response activities and keep authorities across multiple agencies informed of evacuation progress.
Jon Boettcher, South Carolina Emergency Management Division
Mr. Boettcher reported on hurricane evacuation activities during the 2004 hurricane season. He reported that during Hurricane Charley, South Carolina announced mandatory evacuations in two counties and voluntary evacuation in all other coastal counties. Mr. Boettcher said that South Carolina activated a reverse lane strategy in Myrtle Beach during Charley and he reported that it took 3 hours to set up the strategy. Based on this experience, he recommended that a 4 to 5 hour minimum setup time be established. He also reported that Hurricane Gaston required only a minimum response in South Carolina and involved a two-county evacuation.
Mr. Boettcher described the 2004 hurricane season as a year of validation. No hurricane evacuations had occurred in the State since Floyd in 1999, but a great deal of planning had been conducted in anticipation of the next event. This planning included a rework of evacuation routes, deployment of surveillance technologies, and extensive interagency coordination. On the whole, he described evacuation activities as successful during the 2004 season.
Mr. Boettcher outlined South Carolina's goals to extend camera coverage, message boards, and traffic counting for use in hurricane evacuation planning and response. He described a long-term vision of establishing a regional Intelligent Transportation System architecture to serve as the basis for developing an interstate technology base for information sharing during evacuation events.
FHWA's Emergency Transportation Operations Initiative
Regina McElroy, FHWA - Head Quarters Office of Operations
Regina McElroy discussed FHWA emergency transportation and management programs with special emphasis on the Emergency Transportation Operations Initiative. She described how traffic congestion can be categorized into recurring congestion and non-recurring congestion. She stated that congestion that occurs during an emergency event, such as a hurricane, is classified as non-recurring congestion. Her office is charged with the responsibility for addressing non-recurring congestion, including emergency transportation operations, and therefore has played an important role in funding tools such as the Evacuation Transportation Information System (ETIS). She reported that next year, FEMA and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will be taking responsibility for ETIS, and FHWA will continue to play a significant technical role in assisting States in traffic mangement.
Ms. McElroy summarized the results of several technical studies conducted by her office. These studies focused on developing an understanding of traffic management needs during emergency events. She highlighted a number of findings from these studies including the need for more information on traffic movement; the need to monitor more routes; the need for low-cost surveillance and communications solutions, and the need to improve information integration across agencies. Ms. McElroy also pointed out that Intelligent Transportation System (ITS) can be very useful as a disaster management tool. Many States have deployed surveillance systems that can be used to monitor traffic conditions during evacuation events to improve management and response.
Ms. McElroy also explained the Emergency Transportation Operations Initiative. This initiative is designed to improve transportation operations during all emergencies, not only hurricanes. Activities under this initiative will assist responders (and the public) by using ITS to: verify the nature of a problem, identify an appropriate response, and get the proper equipment and personnel to the scene quickly and safely; provide effective traveler information during major disasters; and plan for, monitor, and manage major incidents involving evacuation.
Gregory Jones, Federal Highway Administration - Resource Center
Mr. Jones offered concluding remarks and thanked attendees for participating in the workshop. He concluded that the 2004 hurricane season required a close level of cooperation among State and Federal agencies. He was pleased with the level of cooperation and information sharing that took place over the recent season and attributed this cooperation to the personal relationships built over the last several years through events such as the Transportation Evacuation Planning and Operations Workshop.
List of Attendees
Ocean City EMA
FHWA - LA
Bethany Beach Fire Department
FHWA - LA
Ocean City VFD
FHWA - MS
Ocean City VFD
U.S. Department of Transportation
Federal Highway Administration
Office of Operations
400 Seventh Street, SW
Washington, DC 20590