Home Emergency Management News Proper Evacuation Planning Depends on Technical and Human Factors

Proper Evacuation Planning Depends on Technical and Human Factors


By Randall Hanifen
Contributor, EDM Digest

Evacuations are one of the most difficult tasks in emergency management. Evacuations require much knowledge and coordination among many groups, and most importantly, an understanding of the citizens in the community.

Evacuations have technical and human factors that must be blended. The failure of either the technical or the human factor of an evacuation cancause the failure of an entire operation.

Technical Factors Involved in Evacuations

From a technical perspective, emergency managers must fill in the following equation:

Total Evacuation Time = Td + Tn + Tm + Tt

Td is the time delay between a disaster occurrence until the evacuation order. Tn is the time required to notify a community’s occupants and Tm is the time required for people to mobilize and start evacuations. Lastly, Tt is the travel time required for a community to leave the affected area. While this equation is technical and quantitative, many of the technical time segments require human action.

The use of geographic information system (GIS) software and predictability models can help measure the time needed for communities to travel to safe areas, the ability of roadways to handle the volume of traffic, and the estimated number of people and vehicles that need to leave the affected area. Traditionally, we have not had the advantage of quantitatively calculating these factors.

Collaboration with government agencies prior to a disaster is also a vital part of emergency management. For example, emergency managers must work with public works agencies to move traffic in a counter-flow fashion and adjust traffic control devices to better facilitate traffic movement during an evacuation.

Human Factors Affecting Evacuations

The human factors related to evacuation are the preparation for the evacuation and the ability to evacuate. Emergency managers must understand their community because their ability to evacuate and the process it will take to actually evacuate is community-dependent. For example, emergency management plans for an affluent community may not work in a poor community, especially in relation to transportation and replacement housing.

Remember, we must plan to ensure that we establish the correct connections with the needed groups to facilitate evacuation. We must also understand the technical portion of the evacuation plan. However, it is crucial to understand the human and socioeconomic factors of our community that make successful evacuation and relocation possible.

Randall Hanifen Dr. Hanifen serves as a shift commander at a medium-sized suburban fire department in the northern part of the Cincinnati area. Randall is the CEO/principal consultant of an emergency services consulting firm, providing analysis and solutions related to organizational structuring of fire and EMS organizations. He is the chairperson and operations manager for a county technical rescue team. from a state and national perspective, he serves as a taskforce leader for one of FEMA's urban search and rescue teams, which responds to presidential declared disasters. From an academic standpoint, Randall has a bachelor’s degree in fire administration, a master’s degree in executive fire service leadership, and a doctoral degree in business administration with a specialization in homeland security. He is the associate author of “Disaster Planning and Control” (Penwell, 2009), which provides first responders with guidance through all types of disasters.