Short Term
Long Term
Setting a Precedent


Short Term: Evacuation Plan
By Aubrey Samost

Current Evacuation Plan

New Orleans currently has a relatively effective evacuation plan.  During Katrina, people were able to successfully exit the city without any major issues.  Compared to evacuations for Georges, Floyd, and Ivan, evacuations for Katrina ran smoothly.  Since those two storms, the Louisiana government instituted a system of contraflow patterns, opening both lanes of major highways to one way traffic.  Route I-10 flows to the west towards Baton Rouge.  I-59 and I-55 travel to the north towards parts of northern Mississippi (Governor’s Office, 2006).  This helps to allow the state to handle the massive amounts of people leaving the city.  There is almost double the amount of roads open for people evacuating.  There are also different exits and entrances on the highway, which helps to prevent bottle-necking.  Contraflow patterns help to control the chaos of an evacuation.

Besides these well organized contraflow patterns, the government set up a phased evacuation plan.  They divided the coastal regions of Louisiana into three distinct areas.  All land south of the Intercoastal Waterway are in Phase I.  If a tropical storm of any strength is coming within fifty hours, these people are required to evacuate because they are at an elevated risk of flooding and other damage.  Phase II is the area from the Intercoastal Waterway up to the Mississippi River and I-10.  If a category 2 or higher storm is about forty hours away, everybody in this zone is required to evacuate.  Finally there is Phase III, the area between the Mississippi River and I-12.  New Orleans is the largest part of this area.  They are required to evacuate at least thirty hours before any slow moving category 3 storms or category 4 and 5 storms.  This is also the only phase where the government implements the contraflow plans (Governor’s Office, 2006).  Phase III was evacuated during Katrina, proving the success of the contraflow and phased evacuation plan.

Problems with the Current Evacuation Plan

The major problem with this plan is that it does not take into account the amount of people who are physically incapable of the leaving the city, like the elderly and the people who do not own cars.  These two groups formed the majority of the twenty to thirty percent of people who remained in the city.  New Orleans, unlike other cities such as Houston, did not offer public transportation for people to get out before the hurricane hit.  Many other people in the city flocked to the Superdome, which was not prepared to house that many people for that long.  There were inadequate supplies and wretched conditions.  There were power outages and sewage backups.  Tempers ran high as people started to crack under all of the stress.  It was a humanitarian disaster (Q&A: U.S. Evacuation Plans, Post-Katrina, 2005).

Our Solution

The current evacuation plan is not massively flawed.  If anything, there are some really great examples of organization with the phased evacuation and the contraflow traffic patterns.  These are key points of the evacuation plan that we want to keep.  To enhance this plan, we want to add a busing system to get out more people from the town.  This has been successfully implemented in Houston (Q&A: U.S. Evacuation Plans, Post-Katrina, 2005). Pickup points would be located in the different neighborhoods at local churches, schools, and community centers, which are easily accessible to everybody.  Buses would run on a set schedule published on the city website and handed out in pamphlets around the town.  To help prevent possible confusion from the contraflow routes, new signs should be inserted along the roads explicitly marking the paths to the nearest hurricane shelters.  These signs should be permanent to help people become familiar with local routes.

Another addition would be to improve the Superdome as a storm shelter.  To do this would require stocking enough food and water to last several thousand people for up to about two weeks if possible.  All of the Superdome personnel would have to be trained to take charge in case of an emergency.  They should know basic first aid skills as well as how to control a large crowd.  The Superdome needs to be more structurally sound so it could survive almost any storm.  With the Superdome as a backup shelter, the buses could travel a shorter distance, making trips to the Superdome instead of an eight hour trip to Baton Rouge (City of New Orleans).  A shelter in the city takes a lot of stress off of trying to get everybody out of the city.  It reduces traffic and increases convenience.

Besides the Superdome, other shelters would be setup in New Orleans and in some of the common evacuation locations.  In Baton Rouge, we would establish a carrying capacity of about 50,000 to 100,000 people.  It is dangerous to allow too many people to try to live in a relatively small city, which lacks the supplies to support too large of a population.  In New Orleans we would convert college campuses into emergency storm shelters if there are too many people to be held in the Superdome.  Some of the major colleges in New Orleans that we would use include Tulane, Dillard, Xavier, University of New Orleans, and Loyola.  To help ensure that these shelters are well-stocked and prepared, the government would have contracts with the schools and with local hardware and grocery stores.

We also wanted to implement a five day evacuation plan to replace the thirty, forty, and fifty hour evacuation plans currently in place.  The five day plan would be implemented by stage, one stage for each day before New Orleans is predicted to be hit by a hurricane.  Three to five days before a hurricane is predicted to make landfall, people should start preparing to evacuate.  They need to secure loose objects in their yard, like grills and fences, and start boarding up windows in houses and stores.  Three days before the hurricane hits, priority evacuations should start.  These include hospitals and nursing homes.  By two days before landfall people need to start leaving the city.  It takes about twenty-four hours to get to Jackson, one of the farthest suggested evacuation cities from New Orleans (City of New Orleans).  Starting evacuations two days before landfall allows plenty of time to get people out, even with bad traffic and a fast moving storm.  Two days, or forty-eight hours, before landfall is also when the buses will start running and the contraflow traffic patterns will go into effect.  A day before the hurricane hits only essential personnel, like police and firefighters, should be left in the city.  They will be responsible for clearing out the last few people and getting themselves into shelters within the city.  If all goes well, the hurricane hits a nearly empty city, while residents stay safely out of the path of the hurricane.

Finally, we would like to add a large publicity campaign throughout the city to spread the word about safely evacuating the city.  This information is currently available on the city website, but it needs to be more easily accessible.  The city needs to make agreements with local grocery and hardware stores to help everybody stock up on the necessary supplies to safely survive a storm.  During hurricane season public safety messages would be on the television and radio, so everyone knows what is going on at all times.  Awareness is the most important thing to successfully evacuating the city in case of an emergency.  To improve awareness, we want to create a Hurricane Awareness Event, outlined in a separate paper.