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12
Transportation Planning for Evacuations

John C. Falcocchio, Polytechnic University


Evacuation planning is a key component of security planning. Effective evacuations require reliable transportation systems capable of moving people out of the danger zone and into safety in a timely manner. This paper addresses the transportation issues to be considered in evacuation planning and highlights the challenges that must be met to develop effective evacuation plans.

TRADITIONAL TRANSPORTATION SYSTEM PLANNING AND DESIGN PRACTICES

The traditional criteria that guide the planning and design of transportation systems include mobility, safety, accessibility, cost, environmental issues such as air quality, and so forth.1 These criteria were developed to meet the social and economic transportation needs of society under pre–September 11, 2001, conditions.

For decades we have focused on keeping transportation systems costs down by promoting efficiency. This goal needs to be reviewed because it does not recognize that in emergency evacuations redundancy in the transportation system is essential to keep it resilient. In light of the new reality with security concerns, we need to promote a new system perspective in planning and financing critical transportation infrastructure.2



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12 Transportation Planning for Evacuations John C. Falcocchio, Polytechnic University Evacuation planning is a key component of security planning. Effective evacuations require reliable transportation systems capable of moving people out of the danger zone and into safety in a timely manner. This paper addresses the transportation issues to be considered in evacuation planning and highlights the challenges that must be met to develop effective evacuation plans. TRADITIONAL TRANSPORTATION SYSTEM PLANNING AND DESIGN PRACTICES The traditional criteria that guide the planning and design of transportation systems include mobility, safety, accessibility, cost, environmental issues such as air quality, and so forth.1 These criteria were developed to meet the social and economic transportation needs of society under pre–September 11, 2001, conditions. For decades we have focused on keeping transportation systems costs down by promoting efficiency. This goal needs to be reviewed because it does not rec- ognize that in emergency evacuations redundancy in the transportation system is essential to keep it resilient. In light of the new reality with security concerns, we need to promote a new system perspective in planning and financing critical transportation infrastructure.2 10

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10 TRANSPORTATION PLANNING FOR EVACUATIONS In many of the nation’s major metropolitan areas, roadway redundancy is woefully inadequate and would pose serious threats to large segments of the population if interstate highways or other primary arteries were disabled by a terrorist attack and massive evacuations became necessary. The U.S. Conference of Mayors recently released findings of a survey indicating that U.S. metropolitan areas are not prepared for major emergencies and homeland security. 3 Traditional transportation management practices tend to focus on commuter mobility and the efficient and reliable movement of freight. Advanced technolo- gies4 are used to monitor system performance and to provide traveler advisories; transportation engineers and managers are able to operate existing systems more efficiently using real-time information management strategies. The operating en- vironment for these functions consists of predictable travel patterns and expected perturbations created by random incidents. The roles of agencies (that is, depart- ments of transportation, police, and emergency services) are coordinated to re- spond to recurring daily events, such as incident removal, enforcement, roadway management, coordination, and timing of signals. Professionals and other staff responsible for these functions are typically trained in this environment. Experiences with the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001,5 and Hur- ricanes Katrina and Rita,6 however, have demonstrated that the traditional trans- portation planning, design, and management processes that work well under normal conditions are not adequate in responding to the needs of emergency evacuations. Recent experience in evacuating populations during Katrina and Rita demonstrates a lack of adequate preparation for emergencies and points to the need for improving the planning and design of transportation systems for meeting the transportation needs of the population to be evacuated from dangerous areas to safe areas during an emergency. Recent experience also indicates a need for achieving better coordination between first-responder agencies and between dif- ferent political jurisdictions. There is little doubt that transportation agencies need to reexamine their mission statements with the objective of making emergency evacuation planning an integral part of their work programs. TRANSPORTATION SECURITY PLANNING FRAMEWORK Transportation planning for evacuations is an integrative process of coordi- nating key functions of transportation agencies, first responders, different juris- dictions, and different levels of government. The objective of evacuation planning is to transport to safety the population affected by a natural or engineered life threatening event. A key element of evacuation planning is transportation security. Figure 12-1 proposes a framework for analyzing the vulnerability of transportation systems to natural or engineered threats and to assess their potential impacts on the system’s performance and damage to life. The risk assessment analysis, together with available financial resources, will guide decision makers in establishing strategies

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10 Earthquake, Hurricane, Biological, Natural Man-Made Type of Threat Chemical, Nuclear, Flooding, Etc. Etc. Infrastructure Guideways, Societal Terminals, Employees Transportation System Values Vehicles, Controls, Power Customers Performance Measures Risk Assessment Infrastructure Employees Expected $ Losses / Damage to Existing Vulnerability Life and/or Infrastructure Customers General Public Financial Strategies & Policies that Reduce $ Losses/ Resources Damage to Life and/or Infrastructure Preventive Strategies Recovery Strategies Protective Strategies Response Strategies & Policies & Policies & Policies & Policies Security Performance Measures Evaluate and Select Strategies Criteria Plan Maintenance Transportation, Economic Plan Adoption & Social Criteria FIGURE 12-1 Transportation security planning framework. Fig 12-1.eps landscape

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10 TRANSPORTATION PLANNING FOR EVACUATIONS and policies that will reduce damage to life and protect the transportation infra- structure through preventive (counteracting potential threats before they occur), protective (minimizing the consequences of attacks), response (after an attack is under way or has occurred), or recovery (bringing the transportation system back to normal) actions. In evacuation planning, we are concerned with strategies and policies that protect the transportation system so that it can perform its basic functions (provid- ing mobility and access) in an effective manner, as well as strategies and policies that enable the development and deployment of operational plans for evacuating people to safety and bringing first responders and their equipment (response) to the areas affected by the event. This paper describes the evacuation planning process in two parts: (1) the plan preparation phase and (2) the evacuation phase. For each phase, key perfor- mance criteria will be identified to guide plan making, deployment, and monitor- ing of the transportation system during the operational phase. Issues in each phase will be addressed to highlight existing practices, and changes to existing practices will be proposed to create better evacuation responses. PLAN PREPARATION PHASE The transportation system is a key component of emergency management. A functioning transportation system (providing mobility and access) is fundamental in bringing personnel and equipment to a disaster site and evacuating people from the area. This includes roadways (highways, bridges, tunnels), transit for people without car access, and specialized transportation for those needing assistance. Similarly, evacuation from buildings and activity centers requires having the nec- essary capacity of exit routes to meet the time constraints of the evacuation. There are three key elements to be considered in this phase: (1) the con- figuration of the highway network and its adaptability to respond to changes in management policies during an emergency, (2) the design elements of the high- way system that maximize its flexibility and adaptability in meeting emergency conditions, and (3) the organizational preparedness of all agencies in managing the highway system for the movement of first responders and for the evacuation of the population at risk. Examples of each element are indicated below. Configuration of the Highway Network The transportation network needs to provide sufficient capacity to serve the demands of evacuation—for the evacuees as well as first responders. This requires establishing evacuation corridors and maintaining lane continuity along major expressways. Existing highway networks need to be modified during emergen- cies to allow only movements that expedite evacuation, and certain movements that will create bottlenecks in the system should be closed. The system design

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10 COUNTERING TERRORISM should allow for maximizing throughput capacity in the evacuation corridor. In this regard, it is essential that different jurisdictions work together to ensure a highway system across jurisdictions with an integrated capacity. Metropolitan planning organizations could play a major role toward this goal and should be- come involved in security activities.7 One potential solution in providing mobility for evacuation needs is to extend the popular highway high-occupancy lanes (HOV) concept into an evacuation special lanes (ESL) network. The popularity of HOV lanes in North America is steadily increasing and policy makers should consider extending the role of HOVs into serving evacuation needs. For example, New York City, Houston, and New Orleans could develop a network of ESLs with highway-to-highway connec- tivity and central business district coverage to meet disaster management needs. Currently, these cities lack design and operational connectivity, although Houston has made some progress in developing direct ramps to achieve connectivity. 8 Flexibility in Expressway Operations Examples of highway-based actions to increase the operational flexibility of the highway system are listed below. The purpose of these improvements is to provide for the special needs of special responder vehicles, access points, navi- gational needs, lane directional changes to meet travel flow requirements, and information displays. Possible design actions include the following: • Contraflow lanes options • Median breaks at crossover points • Direct ramps for contraflow lanes • Movable median dividers at critical sections • Bottleneck bypasses • Variable message (VMS) at access points • Driver information at roadside, such as advisory radio frequency for up-to-date traffic condition reports • Closed-circuit television (CCTV) monitoring • Lane widths adequate for the movement of large vehicles of first responders • Roadway sensors and detectors connected to central monitoring system • Provision of locations for emergency fuel supply along roadway In a recent study of hurricane evacuation needs (see Figure 12-2) in New York City,9 it was found that the criteria for locating VMS and CCTV cameras in its expressway system are based on commuter flow patterns and do not reflect the needs of the evacuating population, as demonstrated by the lack of coverage along the routes in the evacuation zones located in the Rockaways area of Queens (see Figures 12-3 and 12-4). This finding points to the need for rethinking the

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10 TRANSPORTATION PLANNING FOR EVACUATIONS FIGURE 12-2 Evacuation zones in Fig 12-2.eps New York City. bitmap criteria for the placement of highway advisories in light of emergency evacuation requirements. It is important, therefore, for transportation planners to consider the needs of emergency evacuation in locating traffic sensors and other information devices for traffic management. This can only happen when transportation plan- ners work closely with emergency personnel in the planning and management of transportation systems.

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110 COUNTERING TERRORISM FIGURE 12-3 Existing CCTV locations. Fig 12-3.eps bitmap Organizational Preparedness When preparing emergency plans, many local governments have traditionally relied on their police departments’ plans. Transportation agencies with exten- sive traffic management capabilities are not adequately involved with the police departments in the preparation of such plans. In most cities the police are not

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111 TRANSPORTATION PLANNING FOR EVACUATIONS FIGURE 12-4 Existing VMS locations. Fig 12-4.eps bitmap experts in transportation planning and traffic management and are generally not aware of the advanced technologies used by traffic engineers to control traffic. In fact, police officers rely on manual traffic control and tend to override the signal-timing patterns in place. Such lack of knowledge on the part of the police contributes to inefficiency in transportation response and unnecessary traffic delays to the evacuees.

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112 COUNTERING TERRORISM In addition, the timely deployment of police officers to the affected areas requires an ability to provide transportation access to police personnel who live outside the city. The McKinsey report on the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in New York City suggests that a more effective mobilization of police officers to the rescue site is dependent on transportation.10 For example, some 10,000 New York City police officers live on Long Island, and a thousand more first respond- ers and other public employees also live far away. The transportation agencies, on the other hand, are focused on system man- agement for expected daily traffic patterns but are not closely connected with the emergency issues and procedures that the police use in managing emergencies. This lack of coordination results in a loss of efficiency that engineering applica- tions would provide. An example of how transportation professionals can help in managing emergencies was demonstrated in New York City, where the Traffic Management Center was able to provide emergency-access-only lanes on the city’s highways during the September 11, 2001, emergency.11 In addition to the need for integrating police and transportation personnel in emergency response functions, it is also necessary to coordinate the use of trans- portation resources with those of adjoining political jurisdictions as traffic from the movement of evacuees spills outside the disaster area (for example, Hurricane Katrina). Table-top and field exercises are two of the most effective strategies to achieve this objective.12 Therefore, since emergencies are infrequent events, it is important for first responders to be ready to function in a coordinated way when they are needed. However, many jurisdictions and agencies have developed emergency response plans that lack in their details for implementation. Emergency action plans need to specify who will do what and when, and they need to establish the chain of command for different types of emergencies. An example of some recommended steps follows: • Identify who will provide special services along the evacuation routes. These services include water, fuel supplies, information, medical services, and vehicle repairs. • Coordinate the above functions in time and space. • Establish clear lines of command. • Create communication networks that provide support to those who need assistance because they are infirm, cannot drive, or do not have access to private transportation. • Establish a current inventory of people who may need assistance and how to contact them in an emergency. The above guidelines will go a long way in addressing the problems reported in Houston by a recent New York Times article, in which it was noted that tech- nology is easier to install than to use effectively, as this depends on the ability

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11 TRANSPORTATION PLANNING FOR EVACUATIONS of coordinating the activities of the responding agencies as well as ensuring the reliability of the equipment over time. In Houston, when tularemia was detected in October 2003, “equipment was installed quickly, but there was no detailed plan in place for how to respond to positive alarms.”13 EVACUATION PHASE The effectiveness of an evacuation plan can be measured by the time it takes to safely evacuate the population from the disaster zone. The critical factor affect- ing this outcome is maintaining the capacity of the evacuation routes. Traffic Monitoring During Evacuation Monitoring of traffic conditions (time, location, and duration of traffic in- cidents; location of traffic bottlenecks and queues) during evacuation will allow for prompt response to correct anomalies emerging from the experience. Perhaps even more important is the task of protecting and sustaining the capacity of the network at critical locations. Some of the more critical steps that should be taken include the following: • Posting tow trucks along evacuation routes for incident-free evacua- tion: Appropriate measures must be taken to allow incident-free traffic flow along evacuation routes. To preserve and restore roadway capacity, all incidents must be quickly handled and lanes must be cleared for unimpeded traffic flow. • Access control: Highway ramps play a critical role in the transporta- tion network, and their efficient operation is vital to system capacity. Therefore, utilizing redundant control devices and enforcement at on- and off-ramps along expressways and major highways are key requirements to maximize the use of available capacity. • Ramp management: Closing ramps at critical locations along express- ways and highways may be necessary during an evacuation to ensure maximum capacity on the evacuation routes. The transportation agency and the police should coordinate ramp location policies along the evacuation routes. • Bottleneck situations: To avoid gridlock, critical intersections, ramps, and approaches should be posted with traffic control agents to facilitate traffic and lane management. • Suspension of work-zone activity: Roadway capacity is also affected by ongoing work-zone activities. At minimum, work zones should be suspended and equipment should be removed from roadsides and shoulders during the evacuation and recovery periods. • Media advisory and public outreach for evacuation routes: A media advisory for public outreach should contain a message that the evacuation routes are priority routes and nonevacuees should stay away from such routes while

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11 COUNTERING TERRORISM ordered evacuation is in progress. This will allow authorities to control access to evacuation routes. Monitoring and documenting the results of a response operation will provide the basis for updating the plan in light of lessons learned. This activity will ensure that future responses will be more effective than earlier ones. CONCLUSIONS Effective evacuation planning is dependent on a functioning transportation system during emergencies. Such a requirement may only be met if we rethink some of the traditional practices for transportation system planning and create a collaborative environment among transportation planners and first responders and between various levels of governments and jurisdictions. Finally, detailed plans for evacuation need to be developed, tested, and updated to reflect lessons learned through firsthand experience or through experience transferred from other cities. NOTES 1. Federal Highway Administration, Office of Legislation and Intergovernmental Affairs, Pro- gram Analysis Team. 2005. A Summary of Highway Provisions in SAFETEA-LU. Available online at www.fhwa.dot.gov/safetealu/summary.htm. Accessed April 24, 2008. 2 . Howitt, A. M., and J. Makler. 2005. On the Ground: Protecting America’s Roads and Transit Against Terrorism. The Brookings Institution Series on Transportation Reform. Washington, D.C.: The Brookings Institution. Available online at www.brookings.edu/~/media/Files/rc/reports/200/ 0transportation_howitt/20002_howitt.pdf. Accessed April 24, 2008. 3 . American Society of Civil Engineers. 2006. ASCE News 31(9). 4 . See the Web site of the Intelligent Transportation Systems Program of the U.S Department of Transportation at www.its.dot.gov/index.htm. Accessed April 24, 2008. 5 . Center for Transportation Studies, University of Minnesota. 2002. How Should Transpor- tation Change After September 11? Summary report of the Inaugural James L. Oberstar Forum on Transportation Policy and Technology. Available online at www.cts.umn.edu/Events/OberstarFo- rum/2002/documents/2002oberstarforum.pdf. Accessed April 24, 2008. 6 . Litman, T. 2005. Lessons from Katrina and Rita: What major disasters can teach transporta- tion planners. Journal of Transportation Engineering 132:11-18. Also presented at the 85th Transpor- tation Research Board Annual Meeting, January 22-26, 2006, Washington, D.C. Available online at www.vtpi.org/katrina.pdf. Accessed April 24, 2008. 7 . Howitt and Makler. Protecting America’s Roads and Transit. 8 . Patel, R. K., and J. C. Falcocchio. 2005. An improved managed lane framework for emer- gency management. Paper presented at the 85th Transportation Research Board Annual Meeting, January 22-26, 2006, Washington, D.C. 9. Urban Intelligent Transportation Systems Center, Polytechnic University. 2006. Intelligent transportation systems plan for hurricane evacuation, Task 1, technical memorandum prepared for the New York City Office of Emergency Management, October 12, 2006. 10. McKinsey & Company. 2002. Improving NYPD emergency preparedness and response. Available online at www.mipt.org/pdf/nypdlessonslearned-11.pdf. Accessed April 24, 2008.

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11 TRANSPORTATION PLANNING FOR EVACUATIONS 11 . Tipaldo, J. M. 2003. 9/11 and New York City’s traffic management center: Before, during, and after. Presentation at the New York Chapter Meeting of the Institute of Transportation Engineers, Sarasota, N.Y., July 2003; Talas, M. 2003. Maintaining highway mobility during emergency: NYC highways implementation post September 11. Presentation at the Annual Meeting of the Institute of Transportation Engineers, Seattle, WA, August 2003. 12 . Ritter, L., M. J. Barrett, and R. Wilson. 2007. Securing Global Transportation Networks: A Total Security Management Approach. New York: McGraw-Hill. 13 . Lipton, E. February 9, 2007. New York to test ways to prevent nuclear terror. Online. The New York Times. Available at www.nytimes.com/200/02/0/nyregion/0nuke.html. Accessed April 25, 2008.