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Publication Number:  FHWA-HRT-12-006    Date:  September/October 2012
Publication Number: FHWA-HRT-12-006
Issue No: Vol. 76 No. 2
Date: September/October 2012


Training Update

by Candice Jackson

Preparing Agencies for Emergency Evacuations

An evacuation of 1,000 or more people occurs somewhere in the United States every 2 or 3 weeks, according to a 2005 Nuclear Regulatory Commission report, Identification and Analysis of Factors Affecting Emergency Evacuations. Given this frequency, officials at the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) developed training on the principles of evacuation to help transportation agencies plan for these unexpected events. In collaboration with the FHWA Office of Operations, the National Highway Institute (NHI) developed course 133107 Principles of Evacuation Planning Tutorial, now available online.

This Web-based training is free of charge and provides an overview of evacuation planning topics and key considerations. The 6-hour, self-paced course presents current and emerging evacuation planning tools, methodologies, and trends. The course also discusses the roles and responsibilities of local, regional, and State agencies involved in the evacuation process. A key component is the importance of collaboration. Multiagency and multijurisdictional planning is crucial to identifying effective practices already in use.

"The training includes a range of valuable information that can be shared between stakeholders about evacuation planning, with collaboration," says Laurel Radow, evacuations/emergencies and planned special events program manager with FHWA's Office of Operations.

Participants in the FHWA Transportation Pooled Fund Study 5(161) Security and Emergency Management Professional Capacity Building requested the training. Nine States -- California, Florida, Georgia, Kansas, Mississippi, Montana, New York, Texas, and Wisconsin -- contributed to the study as well as the Transportation Security Administration. The technical guidance committee for the study determined that information about evacuation planning should be distilled into a set of key elements, such as the definitions of advance-notice and no-notice evacuations and the stages of all-hazards preparedness. The elements presented in the training can be used by planners from various agencies, including highway agencies at the State, local, and tribal levels.

Real-World Applications

The course presents real-life scenarios and discusses the challenges, successes, and lessons learned from evacuation plans already in use in various States and localities. One such scenario describes the plan for evacuation traffic and route planning in the event of an incident at either of the two nuclear power plants near Minneapolis and St. Paul, MN. In this scenario, planners needed to determine how to evacuate the population within a 10-mile (16-kilometer) radius of each power plant in the most efficient and timely manner.

In the training, a representative of a metropolitan planning organization in the area outlines the process of creating the plan and explains the incorporation of a tool called the Capacity Constrained Route Planner. This geospatial technology assesses usable routes, their capacities, and all possible connection points from origin to the evacuation destination. Using the Capacity Constrained Route Planner, evacuation planners in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area selected shorter overall routes and expanded routes near the destination, which decreased the egress time from 268 minutes to only 162 minutes.

"Use of these technologies to model responses in advance can eliminate inefficient or ineffective incident response plans and thus significantly reduce costs," says Monique Czech, traffic management center supervisor with the Washington State Department of Transportation. "Some technologies may also have application in nonemergency situations, which could be considered an indirect cost savings."

Content With a Broad Appeal

The Principles of Evacuation Planning Tutorial is the first course on this subject NHI has developed specifically as a Web-based training. The flexibility and convenience this format provides ensures that this pertinent information is readily accessible. Although designed for transportation and emergency planning professionals, the course's content could be valuable to many groups affected by emergencies. Planners with local police, public works departments, schools, and metropolitan planning organizations also would benefit from this course.

For course details and to schedule a session, visit NHI's Web site at www.nhi.fhwa.dot.gov.

Shown here is a screen capture from NHI’s Principles of Evacuation Planning Tutorial.
Shown here is a screen capture from NHI’s Principles of Evacuation Planning Tutorial.


Candice Jackson is a contractor for NHI.




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