Transportation for When Extreme Climate Becomes the Norm

By Hardin, Jane | Aging Today, November/December 2011 | Go to article overview

Transportation for When Extreme Climate Becomes the Norm


Hardin, Jane, Aging Today


What will public transportation for older adults look like when temperatures are more extreme and natural disasters more frequent? Though a study of current transportation in areas with extreme temperatures, and during emergencies, is likely to provide insights on impending problems and the policies needed to resolve them, this article examines current transportation practices during emergencies and disasters. For information on examples of these practices in cities with extreme climates, visit www.ctaa.org/seniormobility.

Coordination Is Key

We have learned from 9/11 and Hurricane Katrina that communities need to have a coordinated plan of action for rescuing and evacuating older persons who live independently. We want to avoid what happened after 9/11 when "within 24 hours animal advocates were rescuing pets, yet abandoned older and disabled persons waited for up to seven days to be rescued by an ad hoc medical team," according to Nora O'Brien in the International Longevity Center's 2003 issue brief, "Emergency Preparedness for Older People" (webl.ctaa.org/webmodules/webarticles/ anmviewer.asp?a=385&z=5).

While the 2007 evacuation of 1.2 million people in cars from New Orleans during a 48-hour period "was one of the most successful in U.S. history," the evacuation of the earless-"those without access to cars or those without the physical or economic means to evacuate...was one of the most unsuccessful evacuations," wrote John L. Renne et al. in an article in Transportation

the Journal of the Transportation Research Board, "Challenge of Evacuating the Carless in Five Major U.S. Cities."

The lesson from these experiences is the need for advance collaboration between health and senior services, transportation providers and local, state and regional government. Programs like "meals-on-wheels, caretaker services or social networks such as churches" can play an important role in identifying special needs persons, according to Renne and colleagues.

In recent years, many cities have paid new attention, preparing for successful evacuation of older adults and all others with special needs. …

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