EMForum Presentation — September 25, 2013

A Transportation Guide for All Hazards Emergency Evacuation
National Cooperative Highway Research Program (NCHRP) Report 740

Deborah Matherly, AICP
Principal Investigator
Principal Planner, The Louis Berger Group, Inc.

Amy Sebring
EMForum Moderator

This transcript contains references to slides which can be downloaded from http://www.emforum.org/vforum/NAP/NCHRP740.pdf
A video recording of the live session is available at http://www.emforum.org/pub/eiip/lm130925.wmv
MP3 format at http://www.emforum.org/pub/eiip/lm130925.mp3 or in MP4format at http://www.emforum.org/pub/eiip/lm130925.mp4

[Welcome / Introduction]

Amy Sebring: Good morning/afternoon everyone and welcome to EMForum.org. I am Amy Sebring and will serve as your Host and Moderator today and we are very glad you could join us.

Our program today is about large scale evacuation planning and new guidance resources from the Transportation Research Board's National Cooperative Highway Research Program.  

[Slide 1]

Now it is my pleasure to introduce Deborah Matherly, Principal Investigator and Principal Planner with The Louis Berger Group, Inc.  This is her second visit to EMForum, and a previous related program focused on communicating with vulnerable populations is available from our archives.

Welcome back Deborah and thank you very much for taking the time to be with us today. I now turn the floor over to you to start us off please.


Deborah Matherly:  Thank you everyone for joining us today.  This is a very timely topic.  We have recently had some killer floods in Colorado and major wildfires in Montana, Wyoming, and Idaho as well as in Washington, Oregon, California, Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico and Oklahoma.  We haven’t had any major hurricanes this year in the U.S. but there have been some in Mexico.  New York and New Jersey are still recovering from Hurricane Sandy where they had some significant evacuations as well.

[Slide 2]

I’ll go through this fairly quickly because I want to have time for questions.  I want to give you an overview of our project and key findings from the study we did for the National Cooperative Highway Research Program.

[Slide 3]

In our tasks we did the normal literature review and lots of interviews and such.  We also held two workshops with transportation and emergency management professionals.  Both of those were in Missouri with two different groups.  We showed them our tools and outline when we were part way through the project.

One of the things we learned, particularly from the emergency managers, was that they wanted a clearer linkage between emergency management processes and tools and transportation.  They want something that speaks their language as well as transportation language.

[Slide 4]

As we were developing the project we had a study team that included communications experts, a couple of people who are experts on evacuation and transportation modeling—Louisiana State and John Renne had lots of experience with that—also emergency management expertise from both Berger and a couple of our partners.

We had a very good panel.  All NCHRP projects have a panel of experts to guide the research and our program officer Stephan Parker is very, very good and professional—gives great advice.  We didn’t do it alone.

[Slide 5]

You probably know that evacuations happen every day from the small evacuations for apartment fires or minor flooding or larger ones for wildfires and hurricanes, HazMat spills, train derailments, chemical spills and terrorism.  One of the challenges in evacuation is that transportation is always a major asset and needed for evacuation but transportation and emergency management haven’t always worked closely together in planning.

One of the focuses for this project in particular is when you get to large scale evacuations you are working with many different agencies you may not normally work with for incidents.  You are working with multiple modes and jurisdictions you don’t deal with on a normal basis and many levels of government—everything from local, regional, state, tribal and federal and sometimes international if you are along the borders.  Also private and non-profit entities need to be included—both those who are service providers and those who have a normal emergency focus.  It can get very complicated very quickly.

[Slide 6]

Among the key findings are that there are some lessons that are typical for general coordination between transportation and emergency management.  One of the key things is to prepare, train and practice.  It is very important to consider also the population with access and functional needs.  Too much evacuation planning tends to assume everyone has a car and can get out on their own. That is not the case so planning has to take that into consideration.  

In terms of adapting existing practice of resources one consideration is that many times when a region is planning for  special events such as a large concert or ballgame or Fourth of July celebrations many of the practices and the coordination and the conversations that are held for special event planning can also be very useful for evacuation planning.  Some places deliberately use their large events to practice their evacuation plans and strategies.

[Slide 7]

As I mentioned the emergency managers were interested in having something that looks and feels like emergency management speak.  This graphic of the steps are from the Comprehensive Preparedness Guide 101 developed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency.  We decided part way through the project that these steps are very close to what we had been saying we should be doing anyway.  

We adopted it but then in doing that we included the transportation oriented tools and information we had gathered.  We were able to use the FEMA framework but for our transportation focus. You will see there are several meetings identified here and we think we need more meeting than that to do this kind of evacuation planning effectively but we started with this.

[Slide 8]

The guide organization follows CPG 101 pretty much and adds some additional resources.  We’ll walk through it.  I mentioned step one—form a collaborative planning team—we think this is very important when you are working with many agencies and jurisdictions up and down the local, regional and state levels.  It is important that people are get together and are talking.

One of the tools we developed was possible framework for integrating modes for effective evacuation—it could be convener agencies for multi-modal evacuation. We don’t say who should be the leader for evacuation.  It doesn’t have to be the emergency manager who would be actually in charge of most of the evacuation but it could be a transit agency, a metropolitan planning organization—you need a framework and someone who is good at talking to lots of people and getting people together to make plans.

[Slide 9]

Among the other tools, again in understanding the emergency support functions and the emergency management framework, we developed an introduction to the emergency support functions.  This is one example of the fifteen that are there.  This one is for mass care, emergency assistance, housing and human services.

The transportation aspects of this particular ESF are that self-evacuees need roadway capacity and services like fuel and assisted evacuees are going to need transit or other transportation support to get to a shelter.  So we go through all the 15 ESFs with links to transportation.

[Slide 10]

Step two is understanding the situation.  We go through checklists on different possible risks and hazards both natural and manmade and point people to tools that can help them.  FEMA and others have tools to help identify hazards but also we suggest that local knowledge is very important for this.  We go through resources, for example the estimated number of evacuees and that can rely on census data and other sources.

Institutions we need to be considering—hospitals, schools, nursing homes—and we also need to look at the need of assisted evacuees who may need transportation assistance.  We go into that more in step three but this step is how to find out where people are and what needs they might have.

[Slide 11]

This is just one example of the kind of resources and information we provide—livestock and other animals—we need to be thinking if zoos and shelters have plans in place.  Are they planning to stay put or do they have an agreement with others in nearby areas to handle livestock or whatever?

We point to resources like the National Alliance for State Animal and Agricultural Emergency Programs, National Animal Rescue and Sheltering Coalition and the American Veterinary Medical Association.  Also we mention people need to plan for pets.  You can’t say to leave pets alone because many people won’t leave if that happens and that is not something we want to happen.

Each step we have here has text and table tools and the full database tools and checklists are available in Word or Excel on a CD that comes with the book so people don’t have to reinvent these.  They are there and ready.

[Slide 12]

The third step is to determine goals and objectives.  We present example scenarios from the book Guidelines for Transportation Emergency Training Exercises and also the list of events from the National Planning Scenarios. We present information on traffic management tactics and information on contra-flow lanes.

[Slide 13]

Another tool mentioned is the Spectrum of Considerations.  This is adapted from Texas—their Houston-Galveston plan.  This is to look at how to coordinate medical transportation and general transportation.  There is an area that can be kind of fuzzy and you need to think about it in advance.  

If you have people with a motorized wheelchair or scooter they may be able to transfer independently but you will need a lift or ramp.  People need to be evacuated with their mobility devices or you are just creating a major problem at the other end.  If they are unable to transfer they can probably go to self selected or accessible areas in general shelters but they may need elevated cots or other accommodations.

[Slide 14]

We go through the transportation of motor vehicles, what the sheltering considerations are and the types of access and functional needs.  This goes all the way through to those who may need major mobility or medical assistance.  They may need oxygen, medical monitoring—these are probably going to need ambulances or perhaps transit vehicles that have been modified to accommodate stretchers and other needs.

This is something that needs planning in advance.  It is very difficult to try something like this on the fly.  Houston has had a lot of experience with this and they still have challenges with Hurricane Katrina and then Hurricane Ike that came right on the tails.

[Slide 15]

Step four is developing the plan.  Here we include flow charts—everything from the FEMA capability process flow for citizen evacuation and shelter to flow charts that include the different databases and the different kinds of information that is needed for the different steps and the decision tree.

In this step in particular we have lots on resources.  There are at least seven database templates and examples of the FEMA resource typing.  For example in the public shelters area we focus on the information that is important to transportation.  We are not trying to step on the toes of emergency managers but transportation people are going to need to know the physical address where they will be sending people, buses or other equipment to a shelter.

They need to have directions from the evacuation routes with landmarks.  They need access roads and alternate access roads in case one becomes disabled.  They need parking capacity and host capacity—how will transportation be notified when a shelter is full so they are not sending people to the wrong place?  Also whether it is pet friendly and has a generator or not—just the basics—transportation needs to be included in this kind of information sharing.

[Slide 16]

Another of the tools we mentioned—timing is one of the first steps in figuring out the plan.  We do reference the real-time evacuation planning model which is available online and free.  You can draw a circle and get an estimate of how long it will take those people to evacuate under various situations.

That like many other tools is geared to people who have a car or their own way out.  This is a tool developed from New Orleans to help identify a public assisted evacuation plans—people that need bus, rail, shuttles or ambulances—they need to start well in advance of a hurricane.  This is for events with notice.

Looking at when you begin the contra-flow on highways in that area, this makes sense.  They have in their plan transit and coach buses with passengers leaving the area before they start the contra-flow so they know they have people out when they need it.  

For events with no notice it is more of a challenge but the planning needs to include people who don’t have transportation. Whether it is a plan for them to shelter-in-place for some type of events or to help people develop a buddy system to get out or other planning, it needs to be done in advance.  It can’t be left to the last minute.

[Slide 17]

Step five is to prepare, review and approve the plan.  With all the data gathering and the meetings from the prior steps there is still a need to put it all together and write it down.   For this we provide a very detailed outline and detailed checklist adapted from King County in Washington State and sample MOUs (memorandums of understanding) to help as well.

[Slide 18]

These steps are going to be very familiar to emergency managers—after action reporting, updating the plan and training and exercising—these are still geared to transportation but again are to make this help transportation and emergency management speak the same language.

[Slide 19]

There are additional materials provided—references, resources, checklists, worksheets—most of those are on the CD to make it easier to get to and less bulky.

[Slide 20]

Finally as I mentioned there are many meetings recommended at various stages of this collaborative process.  Most of the steps include thought starters or discussion guides as tools related to the specific task.  This workshop in a box at the end is a more generic and comprehensive tool.  This can be used for almost any kind of meeting even though the topics and action steps are example of action planning.

This is to help someone who may be at a very junior level and someone said, “We want you to do this” and planning a meeting may seem very threatening and intimidating.   We help walk through the steps and make sure you plan it, implement it and follow up so you can maintain momentum and keep things moving.

[Slide 21]

I encourage everyone to go online if you don’t already have it and to download the book or order a copy.  It comes with the CD and the resources.  We had a good experience developing it and we hope people will find it very useful.

[Slide 22]

Here is my contact information.  Are there any questions?

Amy Sebring: Thank you very much. I appreciate that overview. It is a good way to get into it. We will move to the Q&A portion.

[Audience Questions & Answers]

Amy Sebring:  This just came out in the spring.  Have you had time to get feedback from anyone who tried to download it and use it?

Deborah Matherly:  I haven’t received any feedback personally.  I would be happy to hear from people.

Isabel McCurdy: Is there a cost in ordering a copy of the guidelines?
Deborah Matherly:  I believe the NCHRP charges a fee—it might be twenty dollars or something like that.  I’m not sure. [Price for hard copy is $83.00. See http://books.trbbookstore.org/NR740.aspx]

Amy Sebring:  The PDF download is free.

Deborah Matherly: You may be able to get a copy if you attend the Transportation Research Board meeting.  Sometimes they have copies of some of their documents available for free but sometimes they sell them.

David Owens: Was this planning and tool setup for mostly hurricanes, was earthquake hazard considered?

Deborah Matherly: It is designed for all hazards.  Throughout we talk about notice-events and no-notice-events.  Some of the examples I gave for hurricanes—it is also for wildfires or floods, terrorists or whatever.  It is really designed to go through the principles of planning.  Any community needs to look at hazards in their area and look at the resources in their area—roads, transit, population they are working with.  How many people have cars?  Do they have lots of tourists?  Do they have seasonal populations or college students?  

Every area needs to do their own planning.  This is to talk through the steps of how to develop the plan and who to work with to develop the plan and to have lots of resources to help you along with the plan. It doesn’t say that if wildfire is your risk you do this, this and this.

Amy Sebring:  When you were doing the literature review did you look at the radiological around the nuclear plants and the evacuation planning going on there?

Deborah Matherly:  We are aware of the planning that is there and actually we found in other studies that if you have a nuclear plant in your area they probably have a lot of protocols and warning systems developed that could be used for other needs as well.  For example in New Hampshire we found they have a nuclear plant and they had a plan to mobilize school buses that would be retrofitted to each carry ten stretchers if they had to suddenly evacuate a nursing home near a nuclear plant.

If there is a nuclear plant there may be additional resources available and there will be other planning that can be used for other purposes.  It needs to be coordinated in advance.

MJ Wilson: Do you take into account different emergencies could require different travel routes?

Deborah Matherly:  Yes.  For example we know that is why when you are developing the local plan you need to look at your risks and your roadways.  Some places will probably have multiple parallel routes and if one gets disabled you need to know that you can go to a different route.  It is going to the local planning and thinking about these kinds of things—that your transportation structures may become disabled in a major event.

You may lose a bridge, a tunnel or a road and have to have alternate paths and alternate access.  That is an important part of resiliency.  That is the kind of thinking that goes into planning and exercises.  It is important to have the transportation people at the table with emergency managers because the transportation people are always thinking about these kind of things.  It is their job.  

They can make emergency planning more robust by bringing their perspective.  They can also do modeling and simulation to say if one resource is out—what happens?  How long does it take to move people under different scenarios?  Does everybody need to move or can you stage it so the people in the most vulnerable area move first so you have capacity for those people to get on the road and get out of danger.

For example in Hurricane Ike that was one of the problems.  They had a million people moving and they only had 200,000 in real danger.  That is an important part of communications to identify who is at risk and who needs to move when.

Ricky Shellenbarger: Was this created with the newly released FEMA pre-disaster frameworks in mind and do they support each other?

Deborah Matherly:  The research was completed in early 2012 so it used the Comprehensive Preparedness Guide 101 which was released in 2011.  If something has come out after that, it would not include it.  The frameworks changed somewhat but I think the principles of working together and planning—those don’t really change.

Amu Romanas: When you were creating the guidelines you mentioned that you worked with particular emergency managers (fantastic).  May I ask were large cities represented? At the same time, were smaller or rural communities represented?

Deborah Matherly:  We interviewed people in Washington, D.C. who do a lot of planning with Fourth of July and presidential issues.  We held our workshops in Missouri because we wanted to get a rural perspective as well.  As you see we included livestock.  That is something not all the big city people think about.  It is an issue in many parts of the country.  We tried to be very inclusive in our interviews and planning as well.

Jayne Cooley: Would hospitals benefit from downloading this pdf?

Deborah Matherly: Hospitals should have their own plans.  If they are not already working with emergency managers they probably should be.  It has some useful points but this is geared more for getting the transportation people talking with the hospitals to ask if they have plans in place.  If you had to relocate do you have sister hospitals to relocate to?  

If you have ambulances on call are you sure they are not also on call by seven other hospitals that might need to relocate in a major event? It has those kinds of suggestions but it is not geared specifically to hospitals.

Amy Sebring:  Obviously the medical community would want to be involved in any regional planning.

Isabel McCurdy: Signage is really important. For instance on your screen, I notice a symbol on the road. What does that mean? I've never seen a sign like that before.

Deborah Matherly:  In places where they use contra-flow—that is where they will basically turn all of the lanes, like northbound and southbound lanes might all be directed to go northbound.  They have cross over points so people can go in those other lanes and it is a very complex thing.  You have to cut the southbound flow sometimes hundreds of miles away and sometimes closing all the ramps so people aren’t coming in the wrong way.

It can be very useful to increase the flow.  This is to designate that in a contra-flow situation people can drive on the shoulder as well as in the regular lanes so you can get more capacity going out.

Amy Sebring:  We have a shoulder lane that will be open for an evacuation but we don’t have the contra-flow.  It does appear that this symbol is fairly uniform in the Southern and Eastern states.

Deborah Matherly:  In the book there are other pictures of types of signs that you can fold up or down depending on whether you are using a roadway for contra-flow to identify ramps and that type of thing.  That takes a lot of planning and thought.  You don’t do that on the fly.  It won’t work if you don’t have a lot of planning and controls in advance to work it out.

Amy Sebring:  During the planning process you need to be verifying your assumptions.

Deborah Matherly:  You need to be working with law enforcement because a lot of these things will have to have law enforcement in place to make sure the ramps are closed so people are not getting on in the wrong direction.  You also need law enforcement at key intersections to make sure traffic is flowing.  It is a collaborative process.  You can’t do it alone.

Avagene Moore: When large city evacuation planning is done, i.e. the DC area, are the smaller cities on evacuation routes contacted or consulted about the needs of huge numbers of citizens traveling through their jurisdictions?   This could be frustrating for all.

Deborah Matherly: I know in the D.C. area, I live in the D.C. area in Howard County.  Howard County is a suburban jurisdiction, I know they would probably be a receiving entity rather than—you wouldn’t have too many things happening there to cause people to evacuate.  It could be very likely that people from D.C. or Baltimore would go to Howard County.

They are included in the Metropolitan Washington Council of Government and Baltimore Metropolitan Council plans.  I think West Virginia is concerned they might also be a receptor and they are reluctant to do that.  There is some planning that goes on. There are not a lot of resources.  There are not a lot of goods stored in places to accept a major evacuation.  That would be dependent on the situation.  We would expect that national resources would be coming in if something like that happened which is why people are advised to have their own kits ready.

Amy Sebring:  Can you talk a little more about your plan for re-entry?

Deborah Matherly:  That is definitely in our cycle.  We don’t spend a huge amount of time on it but we do say you do need to have plans.  Part of it is having the infrastructure ready all at the same time and having notification ready.  How do you let people know things are ready?  It is a matter of coordination.  

It is a transportation issue but there is other infrastructure and a lot of others that have to be involved as well.  You have to have law enforcement to make sure looting is not going on.  Transportation has to know that the infrastructure is there.  You also have to have utilities and schools personnel—all of that has to be coordinated.  It’s not just transportation.  Everybody needs to be working together on that.

Amy Sebring:  Are you working on another projects? Are there any particular plan we should be watching for?

Deborah Matherly:  I am working on another project for National Cooperative Highway Research Program called the Guide to Regional Transportation Planning for Disasters, Emergencies and Significant Events.  We are getting the final draft together now.  It might be published early next year.  If we can get it sooner we will.  That is really looking at the principles of planning for large multi-jurisdictional events. It is coming along very well. It is a different emphasis from the evacuation one but it seems very useful.


Amy Sebring: On behalf of Avagene, myself, and all our participants, thank you very much Deborah for being with us today and sharing this information with us.  We wish you continued success as you continue to work on these transportation related issues in the future. I think it is very helpful to have someone who speaks both languages.

Deborah Matherly:  Thank you for the great questions too.

Amy Sebring: I too want to thank everyone for the great questions and if you have a follow-on or an afterthought I certainly encourage you to contact Deb.  Thanks to everyone for participating today and have a great afternoon! We hope you will come back again. We are adjourned.