How Evacuation Decisions Are Made

Hurricane Preparedness

Evacuation decision making is a basic emergency management function. Evacuation is a public protection action in a hurricane. The purpose of evacuation is moving people from the hurricane storm surge zones and mobile homes. The energy and the water volume in storm surge present the greatest risk to life and property. Mobile homes and similar type structures fail to provide reasonable protection from hurricane force winds. Emergency managers' first concern in hurricane events is moving those at greatest risk.

Hampton Roads has a complex hurricane evacuation scenario with two bridge tunnels providing the only means away from one of the storm surge zones. Traffic clearance times for the region indicate a total evacuation of this area is not feasible or a realistic option. Consequently, emergency management public awareness programs encourage people who wish to leave the region, to do so before they issue an evacuation advisory. Unfortunately, the public will find they have to make that decision before there is a reliable storm forecast.

Evacuation decisions are local decisions. However, there is some effort to coordinate those decisions among jurisdictions in the region. Normally, jurisdictions within the region participate in conference calls for weather briefings and status updates from each jurisdiction and state agencies. Evacuation decisions use information gleaned from these calls, computerized tracking and analysis models, and one-on-one discussions with the National Weather Service. Key factors in evacuation decision making include:

  • Providing enough time for people in storm surge zones and mobile homes to move before the arrival of 39 MPH winds;
  • Selecting an evacuation time to provide for the significant movement during day light hours; and
  • Making the decision before a peak news time when the media can warn the greatest number of people.

People have several choices for their evacuation destination. They can go to a hotel or motel outside the storm surge zones, or home of family or friends, or they can go to a public shelter. Evacuation and shelter openings usually happen simultaneously.


Related Links

Virginia Department of Emergency Management - Hurricane Preparedness

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Last Update: 01 June 2015