In the years after Katrina, cities and states have made some progress in this area. For example, Wolshon’s book cites an online system implemented by Houston’s Office of Emergency Management that allows residents to register for special needs transportation services for hurricane evacuations.
In New Orleans, authorities have implemented the City-Assisted Evacuation plan. Residents can go on a city Web site and find information about where their evacuation spots are, as well as register for special-needs or city-assisted evacuation. “So the emergency management officials need to work with the transportation officials [and the] transportation people need to work with the local communities,” including social services and nonprofits, Renne says.
New Orleans has taken a unique approach to the awareness issue. It teamed up with a local arts council to have artists create sculptures to draw attention to the “evacuspots” where people would meet for city-assisted evacuation. “So it’s a very innovative approach to combining public art with transportation and emergency management,” Renne says.
City-assisted evacuation was tested for the first time in 2008 during Hurricane Gustav and was a success, Renne says.
Miami is also doing a good job in carless and limited-mobility evacuation preparation. “They have been working and have very detailed plans that respond to homeless populations, vulnerable populations; they work across the region all the way from the Florida Keys all the way through the entire Miami-Dade County and Broward County up the coast,” says Renne.
Researchers are continuously trying to improve traffic demand modeling that’s currently lacking in these evacuations. Chester Wilmot, professor in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Louisiana State University, has devoted much of his career to it. He is currently developing a new model that he hopes will better predict how and when people will be on the roads during a mass evacuation.