Lehman Center for Transportation Research at Florida International University

Hurricane Evacuation Planning for Disadvantaged Populations

  • Sponsor: Federal Transit Administration
  • Contact: Dr. Fang Zhao, (305) 348-3821, zhaof@fiu.edu
    or Dr. David Shen, (305) 348-1869, shenl@fiu.edu

  • Hurricane Katrina not only inflicted damages of an unprecedented scale and took hundreds of lives, it also exposed the plight of the disadvantaged population and the inadequacy in disaster planning. While New Orleans has been vulnerable to flooding, the problem is not limited to flooding problems. In fact, people who had transportation means were able to heed the evacuation order; but tens of thousand people who were unable to leave remained in the city and had to endure the suffering brought on by Hurricane Katrina. In the past, hurricane evacuation has been focused on people with cars. Attention has not been paid adequately to the population that does not have transportation means or cannot afford to move away far from home.

    The disadvantage that this group of population has is not only limited to immobility, they also tend to be less well prepared for a disaster than the rest of the population. Their may live in less structurally sound buildings and have inadequate supplies such as food, water, medical supplies, etc. Generators may be a luxurious item, even some of them may well in need of them for the elderly, the sick, and small children. When they do evacuate from their homes, unless they go to a public shelter, they are likely to go to a friend or relative who face similar challenges as they do. The difficulties faced by this group of population have not been studied.

    This project will study the behaviors of disadvantaged population, mainly the poor, and their transportation needs in the context of disasters such as hurricanes. The goal is to identify their needs by studying their responses to a disaster event and identify their locations as well as their characteristics to allow public officials to develop better plans to provide assistance to this vulnerable group of population. The study area will be Miami-Dade County. However, the analysis methods and results will be useful for public agencies and officials in other cities to develop their own disaster plans for their disadvantaged population.