Evaluating Your Evacuation Policies

We've all seen the images after floods, tornadoes, hurricanes, and other natural disasters, as people fill local emergency shelters. In Florida, local officials are looking to decrease the frequency of those images, by updating the state’s system in conjunction with the National Hurricane Center and the American Red Cross to potentially evacuate fewer people with more targeted warnings.

In conjunction with public education, this targeting also had other benefits by decreasing the number of spaces required. A 2010 study estimated the need at 886,541 spaces, while a 2014 study was able to identify 960,924 spaces that met Red Cross standards.

By doing this targeting, officials also hope to avoid the issue of overcautiousness. As written by Eliot Kleinberg and Matt Morgan in the Palm Beach Post, over-evacuating is a definite issue:

In the past, forecasters and emergency managers, in an abundance of caution, used formulas with funny acronyms, albeit for serious issues: MEOW for “maximum envelope of high water,” and MOM for “maximum of the maximum.”

Both can lead managers to evacuate more people than they should. They also can disqualify perfectly good shelters that happen to be in worst-case evacuation zones.

“In reality, a MOM will never happen, because it’s based on every area using a worst-case scenario,” retired Lee County (Fort Myers area) Emergency Manager John Wilson said at a Friday session of the conference, meeting this year in Orlando.

When asked by the Palm Beach Post as to why they shelter people, Jeff Alexander, deputy director of St. Johns County Emergency Management in St. Augustine responded, “Is it because it’s safer than being outside? Safer than being in an unstable structure? Out of the impact zone? Out of flood prone areas? To provide refuge? All of the above."

 

To read the original article, click here: http://www.palmbeachpost.com/news/weather/hurricanes/new-system-could-mean-fewer-people-evacuate-before/nmHhY/