The story at a glance
- Hurricane Katrina’s devastating toll on cities like New Orleans has prompted some to re-analyze their own emergency evacuation plans.
- However, new data shows that only seven of the country’s 50 largest cities have robust plans in place, while some have no evacuation plans at all.
- As climate change continues to exacerbate extreme weather events, more regions will need to better prepare for such natural disasters.
Hurricane Katrina touched down 17 years ago this month, causing widespread devastation to residents of the Gulf Coast states of Louisiana, Alabama and Mississippi, and is considered one of the greatest natural disasters to ever strike United States.
However, new search of a team from Florida Atlantic University shows that over the past two decades, the country has not learned enough from the disaster and that “only marginal improvements have taken place in evacuation planning in the America’s 50 Largest Cities”.
Analyzes show that the cities with the strongest evacuation plans are Charlotte, North Carolina; Cleveland; Jacksonville, Florida; Miami; New Orleans; New York City; and Philadelphia. The researchers stressed that other cities should consider them as models for disaster evacuation.
“While it is promising that more cities are developing evacuation plans, overall it remains disheartening that not all cities have been able to learn the lessons of being unprepared, especially for unprepared populations. car and vulnerable, as was presented to the nation in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in 2005,” said study co-author John L. Renne, professor and director of the Center for Urban & Environmental Solutions. of the University. in a report.
The findings have residents concerned as extreme weather events exacerbated by climate change are expected to become more frequent. widespread in the future.
To understand if changes were made to protocols throughout the 2010s, and to gauge the effectiveness of those changes, the researchers compared the evacuation plans of the nation’s 50 largest cities throughout this period with those recorded a decade earlier.
Carless and vulnerable populations included people with low incomes, the elderly, young people with special needs, or tourists on holiday without a car.
Investigators also designed an evacuation readiness assessment system based on the following parameters: special needs records; specialized transportation plans for people with special needs; pick-up location plans; multimodal evacuation plans; and pedestrian evacuation plans.
Data was assessed before the COVID-19 pandemic and cities were scored based on a composite evacuation preparedness rating system: low, 0-4 points; moderate, 5–7 points; strong, 8–10 points; and N/A, plans that have not been reviewed.
A total of 17 cities, including Atlanta, Chicago, Detroit, Las Vegas, Los Angeles and Minneapolis, either did not make plans available to researchers or had none at all.
The six cities with the lowest ratings were Colorado Springs, Colorado; Honolulu; El Paso, TX; San Antonio, TX; Memphis, TN; and Indianapolis.
“Many cities that have strong plans, including Jacksonville, Miami, New Orleans and New York, are coastal cities that have experienced severe hurricanes in the past,” Renne explained.
“This study supports the theory that cities do not develop robust evacuation plans that meet the needs of everyone unless they have already experienced a major disaster or are under threat.”
Since the data was collected before the COVID-19 pandemic, the researchers note that the crisis may have led to updated emergency management plans for some cities that are not reflected in the current study.