Jurisdictions are occasionally called upon in emergencies to implement an evacuation order with little or no advance notice. The transport of residents out of a hazard zone under no-notice evacuations is a complex and difficult undertaking that requires planning ahead of time and coordination among different agencies. The planning and managing of transportation operations during no-notice evacuations greatly determines the extent to which the evacuation is implemented safely and efficiently. Initially in an emergency, transportation operations are related to the capability of emergency personnel to respond to an incident rapidly and with the necessary equipment, thereby playing a role in the ability of the jurisdiction to control the incident and minimize the size of the evacuation. (Indeed, rapid, effective responses to an emergency may negate the need for an evacuation.) For the actual evacuation, transportation operations support the transport of individuals to a safe zone; on occasion an evacuation will include transporting special needs populations such as prisoners, hospital patients, nursing home residents, and even pets. Special needs groups require unique equipment (such as wheelchair accessible buses) and procedures. Lastly, when the incident is under control and conditions have returned to normal, transportation management is required for the safe and efficient re-entry of the population.
No-notice evacuations occur relatively frequently in the United States. No-notice evacuations can occur anytime and anywhere, and they range in size from water main breaks that require the evacuation of a street block, to toxic spills that affect neighborhoods, to wild fires that force entire cities to evacuate. Unlike weather-related events that are tracked days in advance (e.g. hurricanes), no-notice incidents are not easily predictable and they require jurisdictions to control the incident and implement evacuations. The 2006 report entitled "Assessment of State of the Practice and State of the Art in Evacuation Transportation Management" presents the case studies of four no-notice evacuations. The case studies include lessons learned on the planning and managing of transportation operations during evacuations as well as the transport of special needs populations, including prisoners and nursing home residents. Understanding how jurisdictions have responded to no-notice evacuations in the past allows us to draw lessons and identify best practices to be better prepared in the future.
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