Saving Lives with Smarter Hurricane Evacuations

Posted on August 30, 2008  Comments (3)

A sign indicating a hurricane evacuation route near Boca Raton, Florida. Photo / Wikimedia Commons

Software developed by a MIT student is aiding emergency officials as they decide on evacuation plans:
Saving lives through smarter hurricane evacuations

Michael Metzger’s software tool, created as part of the research for his PhD dissertation, could allow emergency managers to better decide early on whether and when to order evacuations — and, crucially, to do so more efficiently by clearing out people in stages. The tool could also help planners optimize the location of relief supplies before a hurricane hits.

“All in all, this is a complex balancing act,” Metzger says.

The concept of evacuating an area in stages — focusing on different categories of people rather than different geographical locations — is one of the major innovations to come out of Metzger’s work, since congestion on evacuation routes has been a significant problem in some cases, such as hurricanes Katrina and Rita. Metzger suggests that, for example, the elderly might be evacuated first, followed by tourists, families with children, and then the remaining population. The determination of the specific categories and their sequence could be determined based on the demographics of the particular area.

By spacing out the evacuation of different groups over a period of about two days, he says, the process would be more efficient, while many traditional systems of evacuating a given location all at once can and have caused serious congestion problems.
Other factors that could help to make evacuations more effective, he says, include better planning in the preparation of places for evacuees to go to, making sure buses and other transportation are ready to transport people, and preparing supplies in advance at those locations.

Related: Engineering the Boarding of AirplanesMIT Hosts Student Vehicle Design SummitLighting in Slow Motion

3 Responses to “Saving Lives with Smarter Hurricane Evacuations”

  1. Simon Slade
    September 2nd, 2008 @ 6:48 pm

    Sounds like a worthwhile plan! It sure would help to minimize congestion as well as chaos in the area. I think it is also important for citizens to have their own survival kit prepared with food, water, essential supplies and medication for their family before emergencies arise. This could then easily be taken when an evacuation is necessary, speeding up the process and therefore getting people out of the area as soon as possible. Planning and education is the key to reducing casualties and long term effects in natural disasters.

  2. Anonymous
    September 3rd, 2008 @ 2:52 pm

    I hope that everyone remembers this is the proper way to evacuate their city. Mayors and such should take a crash course into how to properly evacuate their cities before they can take on any responsibilty. of course this should only be one test of many! lol!

  3. Anonymous
    September 7th, 2008 @ 5:18 pm

    oh great i really appreciate engineers or programers who work to save life, and this project is looking like a life saver what is more better than putting your services for the betterment of human kind. and evacuating city before hurricane is all about timming if its not done within the desired time think everything messed up which none of use want.

Leave a Reply