Academic journal article Communications of the IIMA

Geographic Information Systems, Evacuation Planning and Execution

Academic journal article Communications of the IIMA

Geographic Information Systems, Evacuation Planning and Execution

Article excerpt


A great deal of attention has been paid to how to move people away from danger especially since the events of September 11, 2001. Of course there had been significant research efforts on how to accomplish such a task prior to that event. Indeed the past decade produced a considerable number of studies that identified methods to model events and identify optimal routing strategies. Those strategies would, in turn, minimize adverse effects of natural or man-made disasters on the population. The transport systems in urban and rural areas are essentially networks. These networks function as the primary way to move people away from to danger and toward safety. GIS capabilities make it a natural for determining the best path along these networks during a man-made or natural hazard and/or disaster.

The primary objective of the authors' research has been to define, and ultimately develop, system architecture capitalizing on the visualization strengths of GIS. This architecture will permit the aggregation of disparate data from multiple sources in such a way as to provide direction for the evacuation of large numbers of people from areas of danger to safe areas. The main approach presented in this chapter is the identification of the 'pieces' of evacuation methodologies evident in the research and how to assemble those pieces into a single coherent system.

A review of the literature on emergency management of evacuation planning yielded a number of studies stressing mathematical modeling and scenario development. That area of research is well established and provides a number of frameworks within which to assess the benefits and shortcomings of various models. It should be noted that an initial decision was made to address models that purport to handle the movement of people from one area to another using existing transportation routes. Literature dealing with the evacuation of persons from buildings, public or private, was not included in our review.


Common to nearly all studies related to evacuation planning is the issue of traffic congestion. Even without an event requiring evacuation, the public is well aware of the consequences of congestion. What is congestion? Simply put it is when a driver experiences a reduction in speed due to traffic volume exceeding the physical capacity of a roadway. The obvious result is that at best speed is reduced and at worst speed is zero.

An unintended result of large-scale evacuations using the road system is congestion. It is here that the use of GIS can prove exceptionally useful. One component of the system proposed by the authors are the sources used to collect congestion data. For example, the California Highway Patrol publishes incidents on its web site. These data can be obtained easily. Most state agencies maintain or could create and maintain databases containing information about accidents on interstate highways.

Another source for the authors is California Department of Transportation (Caltrans). It provides a database that contains information on, flow, occupancy and in some cases speed. Those sources are aggregated in a system designed and maintained through a joint effort by Caltrans, the University of California, Berkeley, and the Partnership for Advanced Technology on the Highways (PATH). The software that has been developed is a traffic data collection, processing, and analysis tool. The performance measurement system (PeMS) functions primarily to assist traffic engineers in assessing the performance of the freeway system. PeMS also serves as the data source for the system being developed by the authors which is presented later.

Congestion reduces the reliability of transport systems to manage large scale evacuations during a natural disaster or hazardous situation. Hence any system attempting to aid decision makers in managing the evacuation must accommodate the issue of congestion. …

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