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Evacuation - Transportation

Evacuations depend on mobility. People with physical, sensory, chronic, behavioral, or cognitive disabilities may not be mobile enough for evacuations. Planners must consider the transportation needs of the community in evacuation plans. Those with disabilities that decrease mobility may need additional help evacuating.


Know your community. It is important to know who might need additional services. Planners must also know where they are located within the community. Important steps of preparedness include:

Include community resources. Planners may benefit from using resources already in the community. Potential partners include:

Case Study: During Hurricane Katrina, Louisiana churches started a program called Operation Brother's Keeper. This program helped evacuate those who lacked transportation. The churches matched those who had "empty seats" in their vehicles to those who needed a ride. As a long-term goal, the program sought to relieve some of the pressures on public transit services during an evacuation. Although only a pilot program, Operation Brother's Keeper evacuated 60% of Jefferson Parish's population that did not have their own rides.

Lesson Learned:By partnering with private, nonprofit, or faith-based groups, planners can provide additional transportation resources to those in need.

Keep track of transportation resources. In an emergency, resources will be limited. Communities should prioritize transportation for those with impaired mobility. Planners should keep a sharp eye on the transportation resources they have available and the needs of the community. Consider the following:

Crosswalk plans with neighboring communities. Ensure that your plans do not rely on the same equipment as a neighboring community. A single transport agency may have multiple contracts for their resources. When disaster strikes, there may not be enough vehicles or drivers to meet all of the agreements. Planners should create back up plans for limited resources.

Provide specialized transportation equipment. According to U.S. DOT's Catastrophic Hurricane Evacuation Plan Evaluation, "even in urban areas where more modes [of transportation] are available, few plans recognize the potential role for intercity buses, trains, airplanes, and boats. These modes may be particularly important for persons who cannot evacuate in personal vehicles including persons with various disabilities."

Review emergency transportation plans. Emergency responders and volunteers should be familiar with emergency plans. The emergency planner can help this process. Additionally, planners can help train and review how to transport those with disabilities. Include ways to transport service animals.

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Use appropriate vehicles for transport. Individuals with disabilities will have a diverse set of needs. Not everyone will need specialized transportation equipment. Many will need assistance. For example, those with vision impairment, mental retardation, or psychiatric disorders will be able to ride in any type of transportation. Those that require assistants will benefit if assistants travel with them in the same vehicle. People in wheelchairs will require special vans with lifts for transportation. Others who use mobility aids may need vehicles with enough room for their special equipment.

Provide door-to-door service. Consider providing door-to-door services in an evacuation. This will be especially helpful for those who have mobility limitations or do not have their own transportation. Local organizations, like Meals-on-Wheels or faith-based organizations, can help. These groups maintain lists of those that need door-to-door pick-up. They may even have the resources to help evacuate.

Keep transportation records. During an evacuation, it is likely that people will be scattered. Friends and family may be separated. For people with disabilities, separation from a care giver or support network can cause problems. Transportation operators can create rosters to record service. These billing rosters will help recover revenue. It may also help friends and families track the whereabouts of their loved ones. A roster should contain the following information:

Track the whereabouts of evacuees. Keeping track of who has been evacuated and to where helps an evacuation run smoothly. Additionally, records can help reunite families and friends.

Case Study: During the evacuations in Hurricane Katrina, victims were poorly tracked. Once they reached their destination, some evacuees were unable to contact their families. Others were separated from their groups during the evacuation. Family members loading on different buses thought that all the buses were going to the same destination when they were not. Once phone and internet service was restored, family and friends began filing missing person reports with groups like the American Red Cross. Other tools to assist in locating missing people began operations including the "Katrina PeopleFinder Project" and web boards like the "Yahoo! Message board Katrina: Search for Missing People." Some of the more successful tracking was done by The National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC). This group staffed a hotline to take reports of missing and found children and adults.

Lesson Learned:Communities may benefit from having centralized hotlines or message boards. This will help families locate each other following an evacuation. Ensure that people with disabilities can access the systems, and advertise the system before and during the evacuation.

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Planning for the recovery begins by identifying resources. Finding transportation resources may be difficult. Drivers may be stranded, burned out, or gone. The whole community may be competing for the same resources, including fuel. Private owners may want vehicles returned so they can begin their own recovery. Individuals with disabilities may need a certain type of vehicle for transport. Logically, these resources may be in high demand.

>Arrange to return people home based on their needs. Returning to an area following a disaster is likely to be a slow process. Long-term contracts with transport services may be needed. Damages may require long stays in shelters or other disaster housing. Regardless, people may be eager to return to their homes. This will place limited transportation resources in high demand. Planners may work to schedule transportation back to a home or community in shifts. Individuals with disabilities may have a greater need to return to their home or care facility. Planners should prioritize the transport of individuals in need to ease the burden that a disaster may cause.


Ensure transportation is accessible. Even during the recovery phase, transportation will be in high demand. This demand will likely outpace resources. It is important to keep transport services accessible to everyone in the community.

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After any event, planners should identify lessons learned and ways to improve.

Draft an After Action Report. Planners should create an after action report. This will help evaluate response and recovery from an event. It will also help identify successes and gaps in service. This will help improve future operations. Involving partners in the feedback is critical successfully reviewing and improving on the plan. Consider using community partner workshops, meetings, driver reports, etc to gather information. Also use Incident Action Plans, activity logs, and functional and position checklists.

Clarify the evacuation process. Planners should look for ways to make evacuation transport services more well-known. For example, a signage committee can examine what signs are needed at the pick up and drop off points. Better signs can help traffic and pedestrian flow. They can also increase the efficiency and safety of an evacuation. This will be particularly important for individuals with disabilities who may take longer to evacuate.

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Additional Resources

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