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Project Type
UTRC Research Initiative
Project Dates
11/01/2011 - 04/30/2013
Principal Investigators
Project Status

Extreme events that require mass evacuation are a great concern for disaster planners and emergency mangers. Most state and local municipalities are ill-prepared to handle mass evacuations from urban areas. A lesson repeatedly learned from previous disasters (such as Hurricane Katrina) is that residents without access to automobiles and residents in need of special assistance are more likely to lack the means to evacuate independently. Developing integrated plans for jurisdictions and agencies to share resources (vehicles, equipment, communication networks, drivers and other personnel) for high-capacity evacuation methods and modes is difficult because of insurance, liability, and other legal and contractual matters. For example, during the evacuation of New Orleans for Hurricane Katrina, unused high-capacity vehicles were left behind in the city because inter-agency cooperative agreements were not in place and there was a lack of drivers to operate buses. Disaster planners must learn from these experiences and implement policy changes to strengthen community resiliency against predicted and unpredicted events (Hess and Arendt 2006; Quarantelli 1985).

This research examines a unique combination of elements: disaster planning, large-scale urban evacuation, and coordination of volunteer transportation professionals. The project will identify, evaluate, and assess transportation management approaches for promoting enhanced resource coordination for multi-modal planning. The research will gather transportation providers and their legal representatives, transportation logistics experts, and emergency planners from the New York City metropolitan area and across New York State to explore alternative management approaches for transportation resources coordination for multi-modal evacuation. These key informants will participate in interviews and roundtable discussions with the research team to shed light on important issues related to multi-modal mass evacuation planning and resource coordination: First, the research will identify barriers to cooperative sharing agreements—among facilities, agencies, and governments—for vehicles and personnel. Second, proposed action steps and implementation strategies for overcoming those barriers will flow from the expert knowledge gathered during the interviews and focus groups. Third, the research will explore the feasibility of establishing a regional Transportation Reserve Corps—modeled after a Medical Reserve Corps that can assemble thousands of trained and licensed medical volunteers in the case of a catastrophic disaster—to mobilize trained transportation coordinators and drivers to conduct evacuations of buildings, neighborhoods, districts, cities or even entire metropolitan regions.

This research is both interdisciplinary and transformative in that it examines, integrates, and extends knowledge about three distinct and emerging fields of inquiry (transportation planning for “carless” households, multi-modal evacuation, and coordinated volunteerism) as they relate to disaster preparedness, response, and recovery.

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