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Catastrophic Hurricane Evacuation Plan Evaluation: A Report to Congress
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Chapter 2: Federal, State, Local, and Transportation Roles in Evacuations

Federal, State, and Local Roles in Evacuations

This section provides information on the current government framework, laws, regulations, and guidance on mass evacuations. It includes an overview of the roles and responsibilities of local, State, and Federal agencies and non-governmental organizations (NGOs), and current guidance materials on evacuations.

The NRP defines a catastrophic event as any natural or manmade incident, including terrorism, that results in extraordinary levels of mass casualties, damage, or disruption severely affecting the population, infrastructure, environment, economy, national morale, and/or government functions. A catastrophic event could result in sustained national impacts over a prolonged period of time; almost immediately exceeds resources normally available to State, local, tribal, and private-sector authorities in the impacted area; and significantly interrupts governmental operations and emergency services to such an extent that national security could be threatened.

State and local governments are the first line of emergency response in disasters. State and local governments have fire, police, emergency medical services (EMS) and emergency management agencies dedicated to disaster response. The recent White House report on the Federal response to Hurricane Katrina described the situation when normal emergency response to a disaster becomes a response to a catastrophic incident:

However, in some instances, the State and local governments will be overwhelmed beyond their ability to satisfy their traditional roles in this system. Indeed, in some instances, State and local governments and responders may become victims themselves, prohibiting their ability to identify, request, receive, or deliver assistance. This is the moment of catastrophic crisis—the moment when 911 calls are no longer answered; the moment when hurricane victims can no longer be timely evacuated or evacuees can no longer find shelter; the moment when police no longer patrol the streets, and the rule of law begins to break down.[8]

According to the NRP, an evacuation is an organized, phased, and supervised withdrawal, dispersal, or removal of civilians from dangerous or potentially dangerous areas, and includes their reception and care in safe areas. Initiating a mass evacuation may be one step in a comprehensive emergency response to a major disaster. Others steps could include, for example, activating emergency operations plans and establishing a unified area command; establishing communications; fire fighting, emergency medical services, and policing for public safety and security; implementing transportation and logistics plans to support the response and recovery as well as the evacuation; deploying urban search and rescue operations; establishing public health and medical services; establishing resource support; addressing agriculture, natural resources, and hazardous materials and response needs; and initiating infrastructure assessment and repair and long-term community recovery and mitigation.

Evacuations can take many forms:

While this study examines evacuation lessons learned from hurricane evacuations in the Gulf Coast region, many of the findings, lessons learned, and best practices are applicable for other catastrophic incidents requiring mass evacuation. These include, for example, catastrophic earthquakes; terrorist acts, military attacks, and bombings; floods; fire; tsunamis; tornados; other civil disasters (e.g., chemical spills and industrial accidents); or major transportation accidents, including train or airplane crashes.

National Policy Guidance

Since the tragic events of September 11, 2001, the Administration and Congress have taken unprecedented steps to enhance the Nation's emergency preparedness. The DHS was established to unify the vast national network of organizations and institutions involved in efforts to secure our Nation, and significant resources and assistance have been targeted toward State and local agencies with emergency management responsibilities. Other Federal agencies including the U.S. DOT also have long had key roles in responding to national disasters. To guide and integrate the work of the Federal agencies, the President issued a series of national policy statements called Homeland Security Presidential Directives (HSPDs). The HSPDs build on previous government and industry standards as well as the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act (Stafford Act) that has guided Federal support of State and local disaster response for more than 30 years. In addition, the HSPDs mandated the development of new national planning documents to provide a detailed framework for local, State, and Federal agencies to prepare and respond to major disasters and events, including mass evacuations. The Federal government's support and assistance for mass evacuations is provided under this framework of law, policies, and plans:

Table 2-1: Emergency Support Functions


ESF Primary Department or Agency
ESF-1 Transportation DOT
ESF-2 Communications DHS (IAIP/NCS)
ESF-3 Public Works and Engineering DOD (USACE) and DHS (FEMA)
ESF-4 Firefighting USDA (Forest Service)
ESF-5 Emergency Management DHS (FEMA)
ESF-6 Mass Care, Housing, and Human Services DHS (FEMA) and American Red Cross
ESF-7 Resource Support GSA
ESF-8 Public Health and Medical Services HHS
ESF-9 Urban Search and Rescue DHS (FEMA)
ESF-10 Oil and Hazardous Materials Response EPA and DHS (U.S. Coast Guard)
ESF-11 Agriculture and Natural Resources USDA and DOI
ESF-12 Energy DOE
ESF-13 Public Safety and Security DHS and DOJ
ESF-14 Long-Term Community Recovery and Mitigation USDA, DOC, DHS (FEMA), HUD, Treas, and SBA
ESF-15 External Affairs DHS (FEMA)

Evacuation Planning and Implementation Guidance

The DHS and FEMA, the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), and the NRC have respectively developed best practice evacuation guidance and recommendation documents. While these evacuation guidance documents and standards are voluntary and not regulatory in origin, they are often incorporated into State and local laws and regulations because they are generally accepted as industry standards or as criteria for securing emergency management grant funding. For example, the DHS has stipulated that all State, local, and related organizations seeking FY 2006 homeland security grant funding must have performed a self assessment of their organization's evacuation plans, utilizing one of the standards described below, and participated in a peer review of their plans by former State and local emergency management and homeland security officials prior to receiving these funds.[16]

SLG 101. This guidance document from FEMA provides emergency management professionals and related emergency service personnel with FEMA's concept for developing risk-based, all-hazard emergency operations plans (EOPs). The SLG 101 is meant to serve as a "toolbox" of ideas and to advise State and local emergency management professionals in their efforts to develop and maintain a viable, all-hazard EOP. It is intended primarily for use by personnel responsible for EOP development and maintenance in State and local emergency management agencies. Specifically, the SLG 101 "should help the State and local emergency management organizations produce EOPs that:

The SLG 101 "clarifies the preparedness, response, and short-term recovery planning elements that warrant inclusion in State and local EOPs."[18] It offers best approaches and recommendations on how to deal with the entire planning process—from assembling a planning team to writing the plan. It also encourages emergency management professionals to address all of the hazards that threaten their jurisdiction in a single integrated EOP, instead of relying on stand-alone plans. With regard to evacuations, the SLG 101 has an integrated evacuation section (Attachment E: Evacuation) that provides detailed input on developing evacuation protocols within a State or local government EOP. In addition, sections on Mass Care and Hurricanes in SLG 101 provide detailed evacuation planning support. SLG 101 was published in September 1996, and DHS plans to update it to reflect the NRP. Recommended practices for evacuation planning and implementation are discussed in more detail in the next chapter and are among the bases for evaluating current State and local evacuation plans.

NFPA 1600 Standard on Disaster/Emergency Management and Business Continuity Programs. The NFPA 1600 is designed to be a description of the basic criteria for a comprehensive emergency management program that addresses disaster recovery, business continuity, and emergency management. NFPA standards are developed through a consensus standards development process approved by the American National Standards Institute. The NFPA develops standards that are regularly implemented by State and local lawmakers for building, life safety, and electrical standards.[19]

NFPA 1600 also provides limited guidance on evacuation planning and support in Section 5.14.2 "Crisis Communications and Public Information." This section recommends that emergency management officials maintain a disaster and emergency public communications capability to communicate with the special needs population and protective action guidelines and recommendations to contend with shelter-in-place or evacuations. The NFPA also provides evacuation training and guidance material for the evacuation of people with disabilities and of health care facilities.

Emergency Management Accreditation Program (EMAP). EMAP is an independent association that publishes voluntary assessment and accreditation processes for State and local government emergency management programs. The EMAP Commission is the 10-member governing and decision-making body of EMAP. The members are appointed by the International Association of Emergency Managers (IAEM) and National Emergency Management Association (NEMA). The commission functions independently of those organizations and its Emergency Management Accreditation process is based on compliance with collaboratively developed national standards for emergency preparedness. These EMAP Standards are based on the NFPA 1600 discussed above. EMAP standards address key components of preparedness and response for a terrorist event or catastrophic disaster including multi-disciplinary coordination, continuity of operations and continuity of government planning, alternate operating facilities, and interoperability.

The EMAP also includes an online assessment tool that may be used by programs to prepare for on-site assessments. The tool helps to determine whether current emergency management and preparedness programs are compliant with EMAP standards. Currently, Florida is the only Gulf Coast State to have received EMAP accreditation. The other Gulf Coast States have completed the baseline assessment, and Texas has scheduled an on-site assessment. Local emergency management agencies also seek accreditation, and East Baton Rouge Parish is currently under a conditional accreditation.

NUREG-O654/FEMA-REP-1, Revision 1, Criteria for Preparation and Evacuation of Radiological Emergency Response Plans and Preparedness in Support of Nuclear Power Plans. This guidance document was published by a joint NRC and FEMA Steering Committee in November 1980. The document's purpose is to provide a basis for NRC licensees and State and local governments to develop radiological emergency operations plans and improve emergency preparedness.[20] It provides a common reference and guidance source for FEMA, NRC, and other Federal department and agency personnel involved in the review of State, local, and licensee nuclear facility plans and preparedness.

With regard to evacuation protocols, the original NUREG-0654 document provided a detailed Appendix 1 on protective actions, including evacuation protocol. NUREG-0654 was updated in July 1996 to provide a clear and simplified decision making process for determining protective actions for the public prior to and during severe nuclear reactor core damage accidents. The Supplement 3 guidance emphasizes evacuation as the preferred initial protective action for severe accidents, barring any constraints for evacuation.

Other Federal Initiatives to Assist State and Local Government Evacuations

HSPD-8 notes that the primary means of Federal support to State and local governments is grant awards. To ensure effective use of these funds, grants are generally predicated on statewide adoption of comprehensive all-hazards strategies. For example, HSPD-8 calls for DHS to set national preparedness goals and develop training programs and share lessons learned and best practices. Under HSPD-8, Federal agencies are directed to be prepared to support State and local governments in a disaster by setting goals for teams, stockpiles, and caches to support their NRP missions. The following lists the DHS grant programs that provide support for State and local evacuation programs.

DHS Homeland Security Grant Program (HSPG).[21] The FY 2006 HSGP integrates several DHS grant programs (i.e., the State Homeland Security Program, the Urban Areas Security Initiative, the Law Enforcement Terrorism Prevention Program, the Metropolitan Medical Response System, and the Citizen Corps Program). The funding supports a wide range of activities, including planning, training, and exercises associated with mass evacuation planning. Funding from HSGP is used for projects in support of the national priorities and target capabilities as outlined in the National Preparedness Goal. The devastating aftermath of Hurricane Katrina focused the Nation on the importance of emergency operations planning for catastrophic incidents and resulted in the addition of a priority addressing these concerns in the FY 06 HSGP guidance. The DHS Nationwide Plan Review currently under way is in support of this additional National Priority.

DHS Emergency Management Performance Grants (EMPG).[22] The EMPG program assists States and urban areas in achieving the target levels of capability to sustain and enhance the effectiveness of their emergency management program. The EMPG program supports pre-incident planning for catastrophic incidents, which is essential to all of the mission areas of emergency management. These planning efforts include the development of comprehensive emergency operations plans, including annexes and appendices addressing evacuation, shelter and reception, logistics and resource management, and other key plan components. Additionally, EMPG requires that plans are consistent at the State, local, and tribal levels with NIMS to aid in the seamless interface among the elements. With these funds, States support emergency management mission areas and structure individual emergency management programs based on identified needs and priorities for strengthening their capabilities, while simultaneously addressing issues of national concern as identified both in the National Priorities and the TCL. States have the flexibility to develop intrastate and interstate emergency management systems that encourage building partnerships to include government, business, volunteer, and community organizations. It is essential that State and local governments coordinate and establish strong working relationships with neighboring jurisdictions, which may include all levels of government including tribal, in developing emergency management capabilities for joint operations and effective mutual aid and support locally, regionally, State-to-State, and nationwide.

DHS Competitive Training Grant Program (CTGP).[23] The CTGP provides funding for training initiatives that prepare the Nation to prevent, respond to, and recover from incidents of terrorism. The CTGP was launched in 2004 to develop specialized training to strengthen preparedness among first responders, public officials, and citizens. Applications for CTGP grants are judged according to specific criteria that stress a cross-disciplinary approach to training, partnerships to maximize program impact, and strong program performance measures. Other factors, such as the proposed program's scope and relevance to the preparedness priorities outlined in the National Preparedness Goal, also are considered.

DHS Homeland Security Preparedness Technical Assistance Program (HSPTAP).[24] HSPTAP is a capability-based program that is structured to build and sustain State and local capacity in priority preparedness activities. Under this vision, the technical assistance services developed and delivered to State and local personnel address the full spectrum of mission areas, national priorities, and target capabilities outlined in the National Preparedness Goal. As State and local agencies identify their capability gaps, the HSPTAP develops services to address those needs and build priority capabilities in the most critical areas. The HSPTAP is designed to address current areas of greatest State and local need. Its mission is to transfer and institutionalize knowledge at the State and local level.

DHS Gulf Coast Hurricane Preparedness Exercise Series. The DHS Preparedness Directorate's Office of Grants and Training initiated the U.S. Hurricane Preparedness Exercise Series after Hurricane Katrina. Five exercises are planned in 2006 and will be coordinated with appropriate Federal, State, territorial, and local agencies, as well as partners in the private sector, as appropriate. This effort facilitates the process of consolidating the lessons learned from the previous year's hurricane-related, after-action reports and conferences. It also provides a forum to validate the revised coordination and response plans that address challenges that could arise if another catastrophic storm strikes during the 2006 hurricane season.

Homeland Security Exercise and Evaluation Program (HSEEP). The DHS established the National Training Program, a National Exercise Program, and a National Lessons Learned Information Sharing System.[25] These programs use NIMS and include the training required to meet the requirements in the NRP. HSEEP is included in these programs. The purpose of HSEEP is to provide common exercise policy and program guidance that constitutes a national standard for homeland security exercises. HSEEP includes consistent terminology that can be used by all exercise planners, regardless of the nature and composition of their sponsoring agency or organization. HSEEP provides tools to help exercise managers plan, conduct, and evaluate exercises to improve overall preparedness in a consistent manner. HSEEP reflects lessons learned and best practices of existing exercise programs and can be adapted to a variety of scenarios and incidents (e.g., natural disasters, terrorism, and technological disasters). HSEEP integrates language and concepts from the NRP, NIMS, the National Preparedness Goal, the UTL and TCL, and existing exercise programs, and prevention and response protocols from all levels of government.[26]

Hurricane Evacuation Studies (HESs). USACE, FEMA, and the National Weather Service (NWS) of NOAA work together to conduct detailed, technical analyses of major evacuations from hurricanes in the United States. HES are designed to provide emergency management agencies with technical data and analysis to support hurricane evacuation planning and implementation decisions. USACE leads the studies, and each agency contributes staff experts and resources. The three agencies establish a working group for each hurricane studied and actively encourage other local, State, and Federal agencies and NGOs such as the American Red Cross to participate in the studies.

HES include modeling of storm, flood, and surge data and analyses of housing and populations, hazards, vulnerabilities, behavior, shelters, and transportation. The studies include projections and analysis on public shelter vulnerability, shelter demand and capacity, traffic control, and clearance time models. The studies also address interagency coordination. HES help officials decide issues like when and what areas to evacuate in their county, where to shelter them, and what routes to use.

NOAA's Tropical Prediction Center/National Hurricane Center (TPC/NHC). In addition to its participation in HES with FEMA and USACE, NOAA provides direct support to State and local agencies for evacuation planning and operations. The TPC/NHC, located in Miami, is a division of NOAA's NWS. It provides operational real-time forecasts, watches, and warnings in text and graphical form for tropical storms and hurricanes in the Atlantic and Eastern Pacific. When tropical storm or hurricane conditions are possible, the center issues the appropriate watches and warnings. Updates are provided at a minimum of every 6 hours. The latest forecasts, watches, and warnings are provided to the public via a variety of sources including the news media, Internet, and NOAA Weather Radio. Conference calls are also made to state and local officials. In partnership with FEMA, the Hurricane Liaison Team (HLT) is activated and resides at TPC/NHC. The HLT, managed and run by FEMA, has direct contact to federal agencies, FEMA regions, and state and local emergency managers. In addition to its hurricane monitoring and reporting, the NWS has several initiatives related to evacuations:

State and Local Roles in Evacuations

The NRP, NIMS, and SLG 101 all recognize that State and local governments are the first line of emergency response in disasters, including evacuation and sheltering. State and local governments have fire, police, EMS, and emergency management agencies dedicated to disaster response. These agencies have first-hand experience and expertise in emergency management, and have led the development of innovative emergency management strategies. For example, in the 1970s, California was battling significant, fast-moving wildfires. Fire fighters were drawn from many jurisdictions. They found that their management structures were not compatible, and that they could not coordinate the massive mutual aid responses involving dozens of distinct agencies. As a result, an interagency task force of local, State, and Federal agency representatives worked collaboratively to develop the Incident Command Struture (ICS)—a consistent, integrated framework for the management of large, multi-agency emergencies. The ICS is used extensively throughout the U.S. by State and local emergency response agencies. In some cases, such as a hazardous materials incident in California, it is state law that the ICS be used to handle the situation. As discussed above, under NIMS, DHS mandated the use of ICS for emergency services throughout the U.S.[27]

The governor of a State is its chief executive and directs the State's resources to prepare for and respond to a disaster. The governor encourages State and local agencies to enter into mutual aid agreements with other jurisdictions to share resources. The governor also commands the State's National Guard forces, which may be called upon to help respond to a disaster. In emergency conditions, a governor usually has police powers to make, amend, and rescind orders and regulations. When the State's capabilities are exhausted, the governor may request Federal assistance under the provisions of the Stafford Act.[28]

The county, parish, and city government jurisdictions in a State are given authority through State laws to provide local emergency preparedness and response for their jurisdictions. The city mayor or county or parish manager is the senior local official and directs the emergency response actions and resources in his or her jurisdiction. These senior officials enter into mutual-aid agreements with other jurisdictions to share resources and support each other in an emergency. When the local jurisdiction's capabilities have been exhausted, the senior local official may request State assistance, and if necessary, Federal assistance through the governor.[29]

State and local transportation agencies also play a significant role in evacuation planning and operations. The State DOT, in coordination with the highway patrol or state police, may institute contraflow operations to allow both sides of a limited or controlled access highway to carry evacuees in one direction. Operators of buses from transit agencies and school districts may be prepared and trained to transport evacuees without access to personal vehicles. Depending on conditions and backup power sources, Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS) technologies, hand-held communication devices, portable cameras, and traffic count detectors can provide critical feedback on evacuation operations. Variable message signs can be deployed quickly to guide evacuees. Through emergency radio broadcasts, State and local transportation agencies can provide real-time information to evacuees and officials to facilitate the evacuation.

Typically, large-scale evacuations are ordered at the county, parish, and city level in coordination with State officials. However, for major hurricanes in which a large number of jurisdictions may evacuate and in which evacuees may also cross State lines, State agencies have begun to coordinate the evacuations. The specific roles of State governments in evacuations vis-à-vis the counties and metropolitan areas vary somewhat from State to State. States almost always manage contraflow operations when necessary and are available to assist local governments in evacuations that exceed local capabilities.

The State laws provide specific authority to the governors and local CEOs with regard to evacuation. The laws vary among the Gulf Coast States, but each includes similar provisions. In general, the State laws may provide:

Many miles of highways across the country include federally owned roads serving Federal lands, including parkways and park roads, forest highway system roads, defense access roads, Indian reservation roads, and other Federal lands roads. These roads are largely the responsibility of Federal Land Management Agencies (FLMAs) who own, maintain and manage these transportation assets. Unlike other public roads, there is no State authority for Federal lands roads.

NGO Roles in Evacuations

NGOs such as the American Red Cross and volunteer organizations such as Citizen Corps also play important roles in disaster response. The American Red Cross has a unique relationship with the Federal government in disaster response and is delegated responsibility for ESF-6, Mass Care. The American Red Cross was chartered by Congress in 1900 to support international and domestic humanitarian initiatives such as maintaining a system of domestic and international disaster relief, including mandated responsibilities that are now incorporated into the NRP and coordinated by FEMA.[30] The American Red Cross receives its financial support from voluntary public contributions and from cost-recovery charges for some of its blood and training services. Under limited circumstances, the American Red Cross receives funding for certain programs when the funding requirements are beyond those supported by the charitable public. At times, Federal and State government agencies also contract with the American Red Cross and provide material aid and assistance to support the fulfillment of its charter obligations.

The American Red Cross disaster relief focuses on meeting people's immediate emergency disaster-caused needs. When a disaster threatens or strikes, the American Red Cross provides shelter, food, and health and mental health services to address basic human needs. In addition to these services, the core of American Red Cross disaster relief is the assistance given to individuals and families affected by disaster to enable them to resume their normal daily activities independently. The American Red Cross also feeds emergency workers, handles inquiries from concerned family members outside the disaster area, provides blood and blood products to disaster victims, and helps those affected by disaster to access other available resources.

The National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster (NVOAD) is a consortium of national volunteer organizations, including national and international charities and foundations, religious organizations, emergency response organizations, and humane societies. NVOAD coordinates planning efforts for many voluntary organizations responding to a disaster. When a disaster occurs, NVOAD or one of its State affiliates encourages members and other voluntary agencies to convene on site. This cooperative effort has proven to be an effective way for a wide variety of volunteers and organizations to work together in a crisis.[31]

In addition, DHS administers Citizen Corps to support citizen participation in public education efforts, citizen participation in training and exercises, and administration of community safety volunteer programs through local Citizen Corp Councils. Under the Citizen Corps umbrella, DHS also supports the Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) Program, which educates people about disaster preparedness and trains them in basic disaster response skills such as fire safety, light search and rescue, and disaster medical operations. Using their training, CERT members can assist others in their neighborhood or workplace during an incident and can take a more active role in preparing their community in coordination with their local first responders.[32] Both NVOAD and the American Red Cross are Citizen Corps Affiliates.

Federal Roles in Evacuations

In a catastrophic incident, State and local emergency resources would be overwhelmed and the Federal government, as described above under the NRP, would join the affected States to immediately deploy essential Federal resources and acquire State or private sector resources from outside the area to help meet evacuation needs. HSPD-5 states:

The Federal Government recognizes the roles and responsibilities of State and local authorities in domestic incident management. Initial responsibility for managing domestic incidents generally falls on State and local authorities. The Federal government will assist State and local authorities when their resources are overwhelmed, or when Federal interests are involved. The Secretary (of DHS) will coordinate with State and local governments to ensure adequate planning, equipment, training, and exercise activities. The Secretary will also provide assistance to State and local governments to develop all-hazards plans and capabilities, including those of greatest importance to the security of the United States, and will ensure that State, local, and Federal plans are compatible.[33]

The NRP established a process for managing information flow and decision making for local, State, and Federal level emergency response agencies and first responders in the field for mass evacuations from a catastrophic incident. The NRP and supporting documents such as NIMS and SLG 101 define the command structures and include delineation of responsibilities and State statutory authorities. The NRP also describes the roles and coordination of the President and the Secretary of DHS, and the leadership of the involved Federal agencies in managing the Federal response to an incident. In the field, systems are established to coordinate local, State, and Federal response at regional and local levels. The command structure described in NIMS and NRP are flexible and scaleable and meant to be tailored to the specific requirements of a catastrophic incident.

In a mass evacuation from a catastrophic incident, the local public safety and emergency response agencies are generally the first on the scene and initiate the evacuation. A catastrophic incident triggers the mobilization of State and then Federal resources to respond. The following lists show the major components of the command structure for the State and local level response and for the Federal level for transportation. Appendix H of this report includes a description of each of these components. In addition to this command structure, when the Secretary of Defense authorizes Defense Support of Civil Authorities (DSCA) for domestic incidents, the Department of Defense (DOD) retains command of military forces under DSCA and coordinates its activities with the Unified Area Command Structure.

Major components of the State command structure include:

Major components of the command structure for the Federal level response for transportation include:

U.S. DOT Roles, Programs, and Initiatives to Support Evacuations

This section summarizes the U.S. DOT's responsibilities to coordinate ESF-1, identifies ESF-1 support agencies, and describes the activities of the Department and the transportation industry in the evacuations for Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.

Under the National Response Plan, DOT is the Primary and Coordinating Agency for ESF-1. The National Response Plan also identifies the following ten entities as ESF-1 Support Agencies: the Departments of Agriculture, Commerce, Defense, Energy, Homeland Security, Interior, Justice and State, as well as the General Services Administration and the U.S. Postal Service.

ESF-1 is designed to provide transportation support to assist in domestic incident management. Activities within the scope of ESF #1 include:

  1. Processing and coordinating requests for Federal and civil transportation support as directed under the National Response Plan (NRP)

  2. Reporting damage to transportation infrastructure as a result of the incident

  3. Coordinating alternate transportation services

  4. Coordinating the restoration and recovery of the transportation infrastructure

  5. Performing activities conducted under the direct authority of DOT elements such as air, maritime, surface, rail, and pipelines

  6. Coordinating and supporting prevention/preparedness/mitigation among transportation infrastructure stakeholders at the state and local level.

Specifically related to evacuations, the National Response Plan states that ESF-1:

Provides technical assistance to Federal, State, local, and tribal governmental entities in evacuation or movement restriction planning, and determining the most viable transportation networks to, from, and within the incident area, as well as alternative means to move people and goods within the area affected by the incident.[34]

Coordinates and implements, as required, emergency-related response and recovery functions performed under DOT statutory authorities, including the prioritization and/or allocation of civil transportation capacity, ...to include safety- and security-related actions concerning movement restrictions, closures, quarantines, and evacuations.[35]

Other ESF-1 responsibilities that relate directly to evacuation include coordinating the provision of Federal and private transportation services to support State and local governments; providing staffing and liaisons for ESF-1 functions in headquarters, region, and local emergency facilities; and managing the financial aspects of emergency transportation services.

The U.S. DOT's ESF-1 responsibilities are managed and coordinated by the Office of Intelligence, Security, and Emergency Response within the OST. During an incident, the Secretary surges the Department's Emergency Response Team through its 24/7 Crisis Management Center, activates Emergency Coordinators in the various modal administrations (e.g., Federal Highway Administration, Federal Transit Administration, Federal Railroad Administration, Federal Aviation Administration, Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, and Maritime Administration), and deploys field staff to support local, state, and regional response under the frame work of the National Response Plan.

U.S. DOT Response to Hurricanes Katrina and Rita and Preparations for 2006 Hurricane Season

The U.S. DOT, with its operating administrations, faced many challenges with hurricanes Katrina and Rita. A key challenge faced during Hurricane Katrina evacuations was the ability to obtain the desired number of buses, trains and aircraft. The Department of Defense was assigned the task of providing the command, control and communications for the evacuation of New Orleans.

While the systems, plans, and training that the U.S. DOT had in place generally worked well, they were not sufficient for disasters the size of Hurricane Katrina. The U.S. DOT is working to further institutionalize ESF-1 program needs within its operations and to improve the understanding of chain of command, roles, responsibilities, and needed coordination. Telecommunications systems, including satellite phone, failed, and it was difficult to obtain information on the status and needs for the post-event evacuation. Communications and coordination with FEMA staff were also difficult, and authorities were unclear.

Because there had been little advance planning and intergovernmental communication for mass evacuations by other than private vehicles, officials on the scene were sometimes unable to assemble or stage significant numbers of evacuees to use vehicles provided to some areas. Some trains and buses left the area with very few passengers. The evacuation problems were compounded by the lack of communication with buses and local officials.

While the U.S. DOT's role was to provide transportation equipment and services for the evacuation to meet its mission, the Department provided assistance to other Departments, agencies, and ESFs in helping to identify staging areas and pick-up times; find destination shelters for evacuees; and provide security on some evacuation vehicles.

More DOT experiences and initiatives following Hurricanes Katrina and Rita are described for the following specific areas.

Highway. In response to Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, FHWA staff from headquarters, division, metropolitan, and resource center offices provided personnel support at ESF-1 and other offices throughout the response network. The FHWA EC in each affected state provided highway infrastructure situational awareness information. The ELT facilitated pre-landfall evacuation and contraflow operations throughout the region and supported the post-landfall evacuation operations in New Orleans post-landfall. Using its Emergency Relief Program funding authority, FHWA provided debris removal and emergency repair funding. FHWA subject matter experts provided technical assistance and subject matter expertise to State DOTs to facilitate the speedy design of temporary repairs.

To prepare for the 2006 hurricane season and to enhance overall preparedness, FHWA is currently developing a series of primers to assist State and local emergency response and transportation agencies in planning for evacuations. These documents will be widely distributed and will also serve as training material for a series of regional workshops.

Intelligent Transportation Systems. The ITS Joint Program Office (JPO) of DOT supports the development of advanced technologies to improve the safety and efficiency of transportation systems. A major initiative addressing emergency transportation operations is now being revised to better focus on the development and application of ITS technologies to improve evacuation planning, monitoring, and implementation. It is expected that the revised initiative will improve the information available to travelers as well as decision-makers engaged in evacuations.

Buses. During Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, FMCSA functioned as a clearinghouse of information for truck and bus companies in obtaining necessary authorizations to operate under emergency conditions. In working with the motor carrier industry assisting with evacuations for Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, the FMCSA established a single point of contact (POC) that was supported by a technical advisory team. In connection with Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, the FTA worked in partnership with the American Public Transportation Association (APTA) to identify buses, mechanics, and volunteer drivers from transit agencies across the country who could assist in the evacuation. APTA worked with FTA to determine how support from the transit industry could be provided and served as an industry liaison to the federal government.

The U.S. DOT has an inventory of over 4,000 companies, with over 100,000 buses nationwide, which is available for use by its national contractor, Landstar. This includes fixed route motor coaches, tour bus operators, and school buses that are available for charter. The U.S. DOT is working with the American Bus Association to further index capabilities including wheel chair compatibility, and number of evacuation-ready vehicles and drivers. Agreements are also being developed with bus operators for standardized rates and terms for evacuation assistance. These actions will allow the U.S. DOT to quickly acquire assets and support the dispatch, command, and control of those assets. The U.S. DOT is working with APTA to rapidly access surge capacity from nearby public transportation assets, including both buses and special needs vehicles, to support evacuations. APTA has formed the APTA Emergency Preparedness Task Force to develop strategies to improve the working relationship and coordination with the governments at all levels in emergency response

Transit. During the evacuations and response to Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, FTA staff was deployed to the CMC to provide support for ESF-1 functions. FTA also worked in partnership with APTA to identify buses, mechanics, and volunteer drivers from transit agencies across the country. APTA worked with FTA to determine how support from the transit industry could be provided and served as an industry liaison to the federal government. Since Hurricane Katrina, APTA has formed the APTA Emergency Preparedness Task Force to develop strategies to improve the working relationship and coordination with the governments at all levels in emergency response. In September 2005, FTA posted "Hurricane Katrina Information for FTA Grantees" on its internal Web site available to its grantees. This information package provides guidance on FTA funding and regulations affecting hurricane response and recovery.

Aircraft. The FAA worked closely with the DHS (including FEMA and TSA), DOD, and other Federal, State, and local partners, as well as private sector air operators to quickly restore air transportation to the Gulf Coast region needed to support the post-landfall evacuation of the New Orleans area. Under the extremely difficult conditions after Hurricane Katrina, the FAA was able to quickly restore critical air navigation services in the damaged areas, giving priority to airports (e.g., Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport) and services needed to support evacuation flights and other critical relief missions. The agency, in coordination with its partners, also rapidly implemented airspace and other air traffic operations measures. In addition, the FAA temporarily eased regulatory restrictions on the maximum flight hours for crews involved in the air evacuations to assist carriers in their scheduling requirements.

To prepare for the 2006 hurricane season, the U.S. DOT is working with the Air Transport Association (ATA) and its members to ensure that passenger aircraft can be obtained faster and used more efficiently. This includes airlines moving in support equipment, ground crews, and other people and equipment that a damaged airport (like Louis Armstrong International during Katrina) may not be able to provide. A registry, similar to the one described above for buses, is being developed in conjunction with the Helicopter Association International, which represents helicopter owners and operators across the nation.

Passenger Rail. In response to Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) staffed the CMC and FEMA regional emergency operations centers and worked with Amtrak, commuter trains, and freight railroads who were deployed to support emergency response. Trains were used to move some evacuees out of the region and to transport heavy equipment, supplies, and relief equipment into the area. A challenge was faced with staging evacuees for passenger rail services offered by Amtrak , due to the lack of communication, coordination, and prior planning among local, State, and Federal officials. Assistance offered by Amtrak prior to the landfall of Hurricane Katrina was not accepted and resulted in a train with 900 seats (7 locomotives and 20 cars) leaving prior to the storm.

To prepare for the 2006 hurricane season, the FRA is now working with Amtrak to pre-identify trains, routes, and stations ahead of landfall in the event passenger rail is needed for evacuations.

Marine. Ten MARAD ships in its RRF were activated to aid in the response and recovery to Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. Through the ESF-1 program, the U.S. DOT and MARAD coordinated with FEMA on the availability and capacity of the ships. The activation of these ships for a domestic emergency was unprecedented and provided the Gulf Coast with supplies, water, electricity, and food and shelter for rescue and recovery workers. In preparation for Hurricane Rita, MARAD ships were stationed as shelters for equipment and emergency responders prior to the hurricane to support post-storm evacuations and recovery activities. The ships sheltered police dogs, emergency equipment, and personnel from six jurisdictions. The ships allowed emergency personnel and equipment to be sheltered during the storm so that they could be rapidly deployed for post-event evacuations and emergency response.

Future Evacuation Roles for the U.S. DOT

Improved coordination with State and local agencies, transportation providers, sheltering agencies, and others that has begun in 2006 will continue in subsequent years as will technical assistance and coordination with DHS and others on regional exercises. These activities will better enable State and local agencies to conduct mass evacuations without having to call on Federal resources, and when Federal resources are needed in connection with a catastrophic incident, will better prepare all involved to efficiently and effectively coordinate required evacuation activities.

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