Setting the Context

The extent to which transit can be a successful partner in an evacuation depends first on good local emergency response plans. Emergency managers have the primary responsibility for developing such plans, and police, fire, and emergency medical services personnel have the lead role as first responders in any evacuation that results from a major incident. Transportation and transit play a supporting role, responding to requests for logistical assistance in an emergency evacuation. In practice, transit may be a more (or less) integral part of local emergency response and operations plans.

At the outset of this study, the committee planned to review the extent to which transit is included in the emergency evacuation plans of the 38 UAs. However, confidentiality issues prevented the committee from accessing UA- and state-specific information in the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS’s) Nationwide Plan Review (DHS 2006), and the alternative approach of accessing and reviewing publicly available online documents yielded incomplete results (DHS 2006). Thus, the committee was forced to draw its conclusions about the status of evacuation planning and transit’s role in those plans from summary data on the larger pool of 75 UAs in the DHS study.

Finding: The majority of the emergency operations plans for large urbanized areas are only partially sufficient in describing in specific and measurable terms how a major evacuation could be conducted successfully, and few focus on the role of transit.

DHS found that the majority (85 percent) of the emergency operations plans of the 75 largest UAs it reviewed were only partially sufficient to manage a catastrophic event (DHS 2006). The report noted significant weaknesses in evacuation planning. Only a fraction of plans estimated the time required to evacuate those located in different risk zones or incorporated all available modes of transportation; just 8 and 7 percent of plans, respectively, were rated “sufficient” on these two measures. None of the plans were rated sufficient in either identifying or addressing the requirements of special-needs populations before, during, and immediately after a catastrophic event. The related U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT)

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