CHAPTER 2 - METHODOLOGY

 

One of the impediments identified during an evacuation operation occurring from a natural disaster, is the issue of transportation.  The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and several other federal, state, and local transportation entities agree that access to reliable transportation is a key factor in a person’s ability to move efficiently to locations of safety.

 

To address the safety concerns and the state of readiness of smaller urban and rural residents under the threat hurricanes, which do strike on a yearly basis, the proposed study sought to build upon the issue of transportation logistics during an evacuation.  Particular emphasis was placed on modeling transit issues unique to an under-represented population residing in a small urban and rural hurricane prone municipality in North Carolina.  Both the small urban and rural municipalities served as the bases for identifying needed transit resources and services as well as implementation steps for the successful delivery of these resources and services to an under-represented population, namely the elderly and disable residents. 

 

To achieve the aforementioned research project, a number of tasks were identified for this study and the details of each are listed below.

 

Task 1 - State-of-the-Practice Review

 

In reviewing the current practice(s) surrounding the subject matter, the research team studied the details involved in planning for hurricane evacuation operations, the application of modeling technologies used in the planning process, and the current transit practice (s) associated with evacuation operations in the State of North Carolina.  These practices were compiled and compared to other coastal states as well as the recommended approaches discussed in the literature.

 

Task 2 - Identify Transit Issues Unique to Hurricane Evacuations

 

The research team gathered both quantitative data and qualitative information on existing demographic, infrastructure and geographic data to name few.  This data as it relates to hurricane evacuation operations was compiled and organized for use in Task 5. While formal interviews were not solicited nor conducted, local anecdotes from citizens and officials were not discouraged either.

 

Task 3 - Develop Site Selection Criteria

 

To facilitate the selection of sites, a set of criterion were developed in the context of addressing human and transit resources and services used as well as needed during an evacuation operation.  Elements of the criteria included the identification of characteristics that define small urban and rural municipalities; existing dispersion vs. concentration of transit provider net- work; and existing dispersion vs. concentration of the under-represented population to name a few. 

 

Task 4 - Identification and Selection of Sites

 

Two hurricane-prone areas were selected, one small urban and one rural, as case studies and for gaining a more in-depth understanding of the residents and transit needs during a hurricane evacuation as well as for modeling purposes.  It was important for the selected sites to be reasonably representative of other small urban and rural areas of the State in order to get good impression of the magnitude of the problem.  This process determined how the sites were selected.

 

Task 5 -  Modeling Assessment

 

A traffic operations based hurricane evacuation model was employed to analyze the selected sites by simulating a variety of evacuation scenario activities based on quantitative data collected in Task 2.  Particularly, the use of existing transit facilities and public fleets was considered.  In addition, a combination of readily available technologies such as global position systems (GPS) and dynamic vehicle routing and management were investigated.  Other tools such as Geographic Information Systems (GIS) were also studied for flood extent estimations. The results from the various evacuation scenarios were then assessed.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Figure 2.1 - Hurricane Evacuation Model Screen Display

 

Task 6 - Evaluation of Modeling Activities

 

Evaluation mechanisms were established to assess the validity of the model results and integration of new technologies.  Several necessary elements were evaluated and the following were suggested: identifying future needs of the selected sites in terms of evacuation planning and operations; protocol structure of a demand responsive service; transit provider performances; cost-effectiveness of evacuation plans and alternatives; and accessibility to the under-represented population to name a few.

 

Task 7 - New Technologies Assessment

 

An assessment of intelligent transportation system (ITS) technologies that can benefit hurricane evacuation operations was conducted.  The research team identified ITS technologies that could augment initiatives deployed by North Carolina’s Department of Transportation.  Recommendations were made on how to integrate these advanced technologies into the results from Task 5, thus improving the mobility and accessibility of elderly and disable citizens during a time of an evacuation.

 

 

Task 8 - Documentation and Recommendations

 

The results from the previous tasks are detailed in the following chapters, and will be submitted to North Carolina A&T State University's Transportation Institute, and may be submitted for publication and/or conference presentation.  The report suggests a methodology for addressing the transit issues unique to hurricane evacuation of elderly and disable residents of small urban and rural areas.  If deemed beneficial, the findings may be shared through technology transfer activities such as continuing education and training courses suggested herein.