Develop an effective evacuation plan for special event that gathers a large audience and consider co-locating the responding agencies in a joint command center.

Experience from iFlorida Model Deployment

Date Posted

iFlorida Model Deployment Final Evaluation Report

Summary Information

The iFlorida Model Deployment, which was started in May 2003, called for the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) District 5 (D5) to complete the design, build, and integration of the infrastructure required to support operations in 2 years. The required infrastructure was extensive, spanned numerous stakeholders, and included many technologies that were new to FDOT D5, such as sophisticated traffic management center (TMC) operations software, a wireless network deployed along I-4, an interface to Florida Highway Patrol Computer Aided Dispatch (FHP CAD) data, statewide traffic monitoring, and many others. The iFlorida plans also called for deployment of these technologies in ways that required coordination among more than 20 stakeholders. It was an ambitious plan that would result in dramatically different traffic management operations for FDOT D5 and other transportation stakeholders in the Orlando area.

In implementing the iFlorida plan, FDOT faced many challenges ranging from higher failure rates than expected for some field hardware to difficulties with the Condition Reporting System (CRS) and Central Florida Data Warehouse (CFDW) software. "Despite these challenges, it can be readily claimed that the overall iFlorida Model Deployment was successful," noted in the final evaluation report for the iFlorida Model Deployment, published in January 2009.

The difficulties associated with the iFlorida Model Deployment provided many opportunities to identify lessons learned from the experiences they had. The most important of these are presented below in a series of lessons learned articles.

An activity funded as part of the iFlorida Model Deployment was the development of an emergency evacuation plan for the Daytona International Speedway. This section of the report summarizes the results of that activity. Each year, about 500,000 visitors come to the Daytona Beach area during Speedweek, a two-week period of racing in February that culminates in the Daytona 500. In addition, the Pepsi 400, hosted on July 4th weekend, attracts over 200,000 visitors.

With so many people attending Speedway events, concerns existed about whether the Speedway could be efficiently evacuated if an event occurred. These concerns were increased because, in 2004, the Speedway was in the process of a significant remodeling of the Speedway infield area. These changes necessitated an updated evacuation plan for the Speedway.

The ITS infrastructure near the Speedway that supported traffic leaving the Speedway during an evacuation was also changing. Prior to the 2003, there was already close coordination between the Speedway and nearby transportation agencies-particularly, FDOT D5, Volusia County, the City of Daytona Beach, and the FHP-to manage traffic entering and exiting the Speedway. Volusia County and the City of Daytona Beach would modify signal timings to accommodate higher traffic flows towards the Speedway before a race and away from it afterwards. FDOT staff would stay at the Daytona Beach TMC to coordinate between the City of Daytona Beach, local law enforcement, FHP, and Road Rangers, and D5 would use its traffic management resources (e.g., 511, DMS) to help monitor and improve traffic flow.

During the period when the iFlorida infrastructure was being deployed, a significant expansion in ITS infrastructure near the Speedway was taking place. Traffic monitoring devices and DMSs were being installed on both I-4 and I-95 near the Speedway, and trailblazer signs were being deployed at a number of key intersections on arterials that might carry traffic during a Speedway evacuation or when an incident occurred on I-4 or I-95 near the Speedway. (See Source, Figure 139 shows the locations of the dynamic message and trailblazer signs in the area around the Speedway.) The development of the new Speedway evacuation plan provided an opportunity for the nearby transportation agencies to update their plans on how to use available resources to best manage Speedway traffic. A new emergency evacuation plan was developed focusing primarily on evacuating spectators off the property and onto the roads. The plan included the following components:

  • A concept of operations that described the organizations involved in an evacuation and their responsibilities as well as the relationship of the Speedway evacuation plan to other emergency plans and facilities.
  • Pre-planned pedestrian evacuation routes for all sections of the facility, with assignment of responsibility to uniformed public safety personnel and vested event staff as necessary to direct evacuees to safety.
  • Recommended public information and emergency instructions regarding the evacuation process.

A review of the plan identified the following key elements within it:

  • Establish a joint command center. In order to evacuate attendees, a number of jurisdictions and organizations would need to be involved. The Speedway would need to direct attendees to their vehicles and manage traffic exiting parking facilities. The City of Daytona Beach and Volusia County would need to modify signal timings and police the evacuating traffic. FDOT and FHP would need to manage traffic on I-4 and I-95. Coordination of these activities would be simplified from a joint command center.
  • Identify a route for ingress and egress of emergency response personnel. The Speedway evacuation plan designated a route linking the Speedway with the nearby Halifax Medical Center. This emergency ingress/egress route could be used for entry by emergency response personnel and for evacuation of injured to the medical center. It did not cross any pre-planned evacuation route to avoid conflicts between pedestrian evacuees and emergency service vehicles.
  • Identify an off-site staging area for emergency response personnel. The plan identified a strategic off-site location to which supplemental response personnel would initially respond, and located this area on the emergency ingress/egress route.
  • Establish pedestrian evacuation routes and procedures for managing pedestrian traffic on these routes. The plan established pedestrian evacuation routes, so that attendees could make it to their vehicles. Attendees would be expected to walk to their vehicles in a direction away from or around the evacuated area. Once in their vehicles, evacuees would be directed to drive out of the area, away from or around the evacuated area.
  • Establish evacuation routes and procedures for managing vehicular traffic on local and state routes evacuating the Speedway area. Once vehicles departed from the available parking areas, traffic management services would be provided by the City, County and State, using currently established procedures and facilities.
  • Review and update the evacuation plans annually. To accommodate changes that might occur either at the Speedway or in the local transportation network, the evacuation plans should be reviewed on an annual basis. It was recommended that a table top exercise be conducted biannually to help determine if modifications or enhancements are needed.

Although no Speedway evacuations occurred during the iFlorida project evaluation period, one event did occur that emulated some of the traffic disruption that might take place during a Speedway evacuation. On February 18, 2007, following a race at the Speedway, a motorist on I-4 was shot and killed and I-4 was closed for several hours during the investigation. The shooting occurred about one half mile east of the SR 44 exit on I-4, preventing all traffic from using I-4 to exit the Speedway. FDOT responded by changing DMS and trailblazer messages to establish detours on nearby arterials. The extensive signing helped drivers find and follow these alternate routes. FDOT also used its 511 system to provide information to travelers.

The Speedway management reported to FDOT that it had received numerous comments from Speedway attendees regarding the usefulness of the roadside signs in helping them find their way during this event. The incident made it clear that the emergency evaluation plan was useful improving the mobility and efficiency of the transportation network in an emergency situation.