GIS for Evacuation Planning

Evacuation planning and spatial decision making: designing effective spatial decision support systems through integration of technologies

In: Decision Making Support Systems, IGI Publishing Hershey, PA, USA 2003

F. N. de Silva, R. W. Eglese, and M. Pidd

“Issues concerning the development of Spatial Decision Systems for evacuation planning include realistic modelling of evacuee behavior, decision-making processes that take place during an evacuation, logistics, generating realistic scenarios, validation, technology development and trends for the future. These issues are discussed with reference to the development of a prototype system called CEMPS, which integrates simulation and GIS technology for emergency planning.”

Integrating simulation modelling and GIS: spatial decision support systems for evacuation planning

Journal of the Operational Research Society (2000) 51, 423–430

F N de Silva and R W Eglese

“A prototype spatial decision support system (SDSS) has been designed for contingency planning for emergency evacuations which combines simulation techniques with spatial data handling and display capabilities of a geographical information system (GIS). It links together the topographical support and analysis provided by the GIS–ARC/INFO, with a simulation model designed to simulate the dynamics of an evacuation process in detail. Our aim has been to design a SDSS so that it provides an interactive evacuation simulator with dynamic graphics that allows for experimentation with policies by providing rapid feedback from the simulation. The idea is that emergency planners will be able to use the SDSS to experiment with emergency evacuation plans in order to plan for different contingencies. This paper concentrates on the issues involved in designing an effective integration link interface between the GIS and the simulation model when building a SDSS of this type.”

Providing spatial decision support for evacuation planning: a challenge in integrating technologies

Disaster Prevention and Management, Vol. 10 Iss: 1, pp.11 – 20

F. Nisha de Silva

“Computer-aided decision-support tools are part and parcel of the emergency planning and management process today. Much is dependent on using modern technology to gather and analyse data on damage assessment, meteorology, demography, etc. and provide decision support for prevention/mitigation, response and recovery. Diverse technologies are merged to provide useful functions to aid the emergency planner/manager. Complexities arise when attempting to link several streams of technology to achieve a realistic, usable and reliable decision-support tool. This discussion identifies and analyses the challenging issues faced in linking two technologies: simulation modelling and GIS, to design spatial decision-support systems for evacuation planing. Experiences in designing CEMPS, a prototype designed for area evacuation planning, are drawn on to discuss relevant managerial, behavioural, processual and technical issues. Focus is placed on modelling evacuee behaviour, generating realistic scenarios, validation, logistics, etc. while also investigating future trends and developments.”

Modelling community evacuation vulnerability using GIS

International Journal of Geographical Information Science, 1997, vol. 11, no. 8, 763± 784


“We present a method for systematically identifying neighbourhoods that may face transportation difficulties during an evacuation. A classification of this nature offers a unique approach to assessing community vulnerability in regions subject to fast-moving hazards of uncertain spatial impact (e.g., urban firestorms and toxic spills on highways) . The approach is founded on an integer programming (IP) model called the critical cluster model (CCM). An heuristic algorithm is described which is capable of producing efficient, high-quality solutions to this model in a GIS context. The paper concludes with an application of the method to Santa Barbara, California.”

Using GIS in Nuclear Power Plant Emergency Evacuation Planning

2010 Esri Homeland Security Summit

Sandra Forte

“Developing thorough emergency evacuation plans plays a vital role in ensuring public safety. Federal regulations require that detailed evacuation plans be developed for the emergency planning zone (EPZ) surrounding a nuclear power plant. These plans include evacuation time estimates (ETE) which are used by local emergency response personnel in preparing protective action recommendations for the public. Esri’s ArcMap is an essential tool in evacuation planning. Using ArcMap, planning data are spatially distributed within the EPZ. These data are analyzed using Arc Map tools and used as inputs to compute ETE. In addition, ArcMap creates effective maps included in the evacuation plan, which easily identify: EPZ residents that live in the area being evacuated, best routes for travel out of the area at risk, critical intersections manned by law enforcement personnel to facilitate traffic flow out of the area at risk, and special facilities within the area being evacuated.”

Natural Hazards in the Popocatepetl Volcano Zone, Mexico

2001 Esri International User Confernece

David Ricardo Sol Martinez, Antonio Felipe Razo Rodríguez

“Volcanoes are a very important component in the geological description of the earth. A volcano can modify the geographical description where it is localized when an event arrives. An important activity is the observation of volcanic events to make predictions and to reduce the impact hazard (eruption, volcanic ash) on the population. Around the Popocatepetl volcano there are about 200,000 persons in several towns. The volcano events can be identified and placed on a map to help make a decision. A first work has been developed with old cartography of the zone. A first prototype has been built, and now it is used to develop an application with a geographical database. The work is made in collaboration with the Plan Popocatepetl Office from the Puebla government and CENAPRED (Centro Nacional de Prevencion de Desastres) in Mexico City. Some tools are developed to place the application in a network context. The application will be a tool to help the decision makers to protect the population.”

Evacuation route planning: scalable heuristics

GIS ’07: Proceedings of the 15th annual ACM international symposium on Advances in geographic information systems, New York, NY, USA 2007

Sangho Kim, Betsy George, and Shashi Shekhar

“Given a transportation network, a vulnerable population, and a set of destinations, evacuation route planning identifies routes to minimize the time to evacuate the vulnerable population. Evacuation route planning is a vital components of efforts by civil authorities to prepare for both natural and man-made disasters (e.g., hurricanes, terrorist acts, etc). However, evacuation route planning is computationally challenging due to the size of transportation networks, the large number of evacuees, and capacity constraints. For example, the number of evacuees often far exceeds the bottleneck capacity, i.e., the minimum cut of a given network. Current approaches (e.g., linear programming and Capacity Constrained Route Planner (CCRP), a recently proposed evacuation planning algorithm) do not scale well because of intensive computation needs in order to produce the schedules of evacuees as well as routing plans.

“This paper presents innovative heuristics scalable to very large transportation networks. The Intelligent Load Reduction heuristic accelerates the routing computation by the reduction of evacuees using the bottleneck saturation. The performance of Intelligent Load Reduction is evaluated using real world scenarios. Results show that the Intelligent Load Reduction heuristic significantly improve the runtime of CCRP. We propose another heuristic named Incremental Data Structure. While the Intelligent Load Reduction gains performance increase by giving up the schedules of evacuees, the Incremental Data Structure heuristic can reduce calculation time of the CCRP algorithm by the enhanced data structures without affecting the outputs.”

When all hell breaks loose: Firestorm evacuation analysis and planning with GIS

GISVision, December 1999

Tom Cova

“In June I traveled to Los Alamos to meet the emergency managers who orchestrated the highly successful Cerro Grande fire evacuations that were completed without a single fatality or injury. Their incident planning was impressive and included the exact scenario that occurred: a wildfire approaching from the southwest that requires clearing the entire town. The most favorable factor was the distance from the fire origin to the urban fringe. This allowed time to prepare the public and even to grade a backroad out of town through the Santa Clara Pueblo for an additional exit.”



J.W. Cole, C. E. Sabel, E. Blumenthal, K. Finnis, A. Dantas, S. Barnard, and D.M. Johnston

“Geographic Information Systems (GIS) provide a range of techniques which allow ready access to data, and the opportunity to overlay graphical location-based information for ease of interpretation.  They can be used to solve complex planning and management problems. All phases of emergency management (reduction, readiness, response and recovery) can benefit from GIS, including applications related to transportation systems, a critical element in managing effective lifelines in an emergency. This is particularly true immediately before and during a volcanic eruption.

“The potential for volcanic activity in New Zealand is high, with 10 volcanoes or volcanic centres (Auckland, Bay of Islands, Haroharo, Mayor Island, Ruapehu, Taranaki, Tarawera, Taupo, Tongariro (including Ngauruhoe) and White Island) recognised as active or potentially active. In addition there are many active and potentially active volcanoes along the Kermadec Island chain. There is a great deal of background information on all of these volcanoes, and GIS is currently being used for some aspects of monitoring (e.g. ERS and Envisat radar interferometry for observing deformation prior to eruptions). If an eruption is considered imminent, evacuation may be necessary, and hence transportation systems must be evaluated. Scenarios have been developed for many centres (e.g. Taranaki/Egmont and Bay of Plenty volcanoes), but so far the use of GIS in planning for evacuation is limited.

“This paper looks at the use of GIS, indicates how it is being used in emergency management, and suggests how it can be used in evacuation planning.”

Evacuation Planning using Answer Set Programming: An initial approach

Engineering Letters, 15:2, 2007

Claudia Zepeda and David Sol

“This paper describes a methodology based on Answer Set Programming (ASP) to work with incomplete geographic data. Source geographic data which describes a risk zone is translated to ASP description and it allows to solve query’s which cannot be solved by a normal GIS. An evacuation plan can change when new situations are presented, for instance traffic, a zone in extreme danger or other natural modification of the zone to be evacuated. Since 1994, Risk Management Office in Mexico has declared around 30 km from the Popocat´epetl Volcano crater a danger zone. This office defined several roads to evacuate the people when a Volcano event can be presented. Our approach allows to simulate and to give support to generate new evacuation plans. The results developed by the ASP approach can be translated to a visual format and can be incorporated to a GIS to develop other kind of analysis by using the geographic data.”

Modeling Evacuation Planning Using A-Prolog

CONIELECOMP 2005: Proceedings of the 15th International Conference on Electronics, Communications and Computers, 2005

Zepeda, C.;   Osorio, M.;   Sol, D.

“In this work, we present current results of our research which goal is to develop a decision support system (DSS) as an extension of a Geographical Information System (GIS) to model evacuation plans. It is presented why an A-Prolog approach seems to be appropriated to explore in order to add planning operation as an extension of a GIS. In order to achieve our objective, first it is model the disaster scenario. The disaster scenario should be described as close as possible to the real problem. We define an action language to model and give solution to evacuation plans, named ALEP. Syntax and semantics of ALEP are presented. Finally, we plan to test the expressiveness of ALEP language defining a DSS to model evacuation plans.”

GIS Application for the Development of Emergency Evacuation Route Plan

Ministry of Lands, Survey & Natural Resources, TONGA; undated

“To develop an Emergency Evacuation Route Plan to ensure safe movement of the people at identified routes to minimize the time to evacuate to safe areas.”

Geographic Information Systems, Evacuation Planning and Execution

Communications of the IIMA, 2008 Volume 8 Issue 4

Robert D. Wilson and Brandon Cales

Evacuation planning has for decades relied on the results derived from mathematical modeling and scenario development. While there exist many mathematical and simulation models dealing with evacuation planning most lack one or more critical components needed by the individuals or agencies responsible for removing people from harm’s way. Those critical components are real-time access to and representation of data to establish appropriate evacuation strategies.

“All the pieces for a real-time centralized evacuation system exist but have yet to be integrated as a single point system. The focus of this chapter is the underutilization of geographic information systems (GIS). The contribution of GIS is its capability to serve as that single point platform incorporating all the components. Further, and perhaps most importantly, the focus means to rein-force the benefits of the visual analysis capabilities of GIS technology.”

Creating a GIS database for nursing home evacuation planning in Virginia Beach, Virginia

Dawson, Randall S.

M.A. Thesis, WEST VIRGINIA UNIVERSITY, 2007, 39 pages

“The focus of this project is planning for the evacuation of the nursing homes of the city of Virginia Beach, VA in response to a hurricane risk. The population of nursing homes, hospitals and assisted living communities need special assistance when evacuating an area, requiring medications, equipment, and specialized transportation. Previous studies for Virginia Beach have provided generalizations for the population as a whole yet have provided very little data for specific communities such as nursing homes. A GIS database is created for nursing home establishments including road networks, bridges and tunnels, elevation, estimated facility population, and recently modeled storm surge data. This study shows that some nursing home evacuation plans are inadequate for predicted hurricanes of category three and above and need to be readdressed. The research identifies and provides maps and other geographic information essential for contingency planning.”

Interim tsunami evacuation planning zone boundary mapping for the Wellington and Horizons regions defined by a GIS-calculated attenuation rule

GNS Science Report 2008/30, April 2009, 22 p.

G.S. Leonard, B. Lukovic, R. Langridge, G. Downes, W. Power, W. Smith, and D. Johnston

“Wellington and Horizons regions have engaged GNS Science to provide indicative evacuation zones. The selected method for defining evacuation zone boundaries is an attenuated elevation-distance relationship calculated in ArcGIS Workstation as an AML script (detailed in Section 4). The primary input datasets are a digital elevation model, river lines, river polygons and coastline.

“There are limitations to this method and local checking of the accuracy of outputted zones is needed. Over time it is recommended that zones are revised as the science is improved. A

more robust simulation model could in future be used to calculate the above. Further in the future it may be possible to draw an envelope around all inundations from multiple/many well-tested computer models – this is the ideal method.

“The probabilistic wave height with a 500 year return period, from regional and distant sources (>1hr travel time away), is used to define the orange evacuation zone. This is the zone which we may reasonably expect to provide official warning for now or in the foreseeable future. The probabilistic wave height with a 2500 year return period (i.e. maximum credible event) from all sources is used to define the yellow evacuation zone. This zone must encompass all credible tsunami, including those for which there will only be enough time for natural or informal warning. Zones are capped at 35 m above mean sea level along the coast because inundations above this elevation are extremely rare from subduction zone sources, and to take this remote possibility into account would cause overevacuation in the vast majority of situations. The 84th percentile wave height is used from the probabilistic model to allow a margin of safety. The off-shore near-shore modelled height was doubled to define the evacuation zone, because run-up can be up to double the arriving wave height through momentum. The orange zone height is rounded to the nearest draft GeoNet ‘threat level’ boundary, to aid pre-planning for calling official evacuations.

“The GIS model allows for attenuation by reducing the maximum potential run-up by 1.0 m every 200 m as the tsunami travels inland, 1m every 400m up significant rivers and 1.0 m every 50 m away from rivers. It has been tested against limited available data from real tsunami and against other models.”


Middle States Geographer, 2005, 38:22-30

Tao Tang and Melissa Wannemacher

“Accumulation of vehicles on streets and highways during emergency evacuations causes traffic jams. This study models the spatial patterns of vehicle population during an emergency evacuation in order to find the accumulation “hot spots” or vulnerable places on a street network model. The City of Buffalo was used as a study area. A geometric network model was built with edges and junctions. The distributed population of US Census block groups was converted to vehicle population, and the vehicle population was transferred to the geometric model as a weight. The ArcGIS Network Analyst extension was used to simulate the traffic flow in the distributed model. The results indicate that the highest evacuation congestion occurs on Main Street east bound. The second highest happens on Route 33 east bound, and the lowest traffic intensity occurs on Route 5 south bound. The spatial pattern of congestion does not change in the simulation with the addition of day time working population in the downtown Buffalo.”

A scalable heuristic for evacuation planning in large road network

GIS-IWCTS 2009, Proceedings

Sangho Kim, Betsy George, and Shashi Shekhar

“Evacuation planning is of critical importance for civil authorities to prepare for natural disasters, but efficient evacuation planning in large city is computationally challenging due to the large number of evacuees and the huge size of transportation networks. One recently proposed algorithm Capacity Constrained Route Planner (CCRP) can give sub-optimal solution with good accuracy in less time and use less memory compared to previous approaches. However, it still can not scale to large networks. In this paper, we analyze the overhead of CCRP and come to a new heuristic CCRP++ that scalable to large network. Our algorithm can reuse search results in previous iterations and avoid the repetitive global shortest path expansion in CCRP. We conducted extensive experiments with real world road networks and different evacuation parameter settings. The result shows it can gives great speed-up without loosing the optimality.”

Evacuation planning using multiobjective evolutionary optimization approach

European Journal of Operational Research, Volume 198, Issue 1, 1 October 2009, Pages 305-314

Saadatseresht, Mohammad; Mansourian, Ali; and Taleai, Mohammad

“In an emergency situation, evacuation is conducted in order to displace people from a dangerous place to a safer place, and it usually needs to be done in a hurry. It is necessary to prepare evacuation plans in order to have a good response in an emergency situation. A central challenge in developing an evacuation plan is in determining the distribution of evacuees into the safe areas, that is, deciding where and from which road each evacuee should go. To achieve this aim, several objective functions should be brought into consideration and need to be satisfied simultaneously, though these objective functions may often conflict with each other.

“This paper aims to address the use of multiobjective evolutionary algorithms (MOEA) and the geographical information system (GIS) for evacuation planning. The paper proposes a three-step approach for evacuation planning. It explains that the last step, which corresponds to distribution of evacuees into the safe areas, is a spatial multiobjective optimization problem (MOP), because the objective functions and data required for solving the problem has a spatial component. To solve the MOP, two objective functions are defined, different algorithms for solving the problem are investigated, and the proper algorithm is selected. Finally, in the context of a case study project and based on the proposed approach and algorithm, evacuation planning is conducted in a GIS environment, and the results are tested. This paper is based on an ongoing research project in Iran.”

Guidance for Local Jurisdictions to Develop or Review Tsunami Evacuation Plans for a Post-Earthquake, Local-Source Tsunami

California Tsunami Hazard Mitigation and Preparedness Program, undated

This document provides local jurisdictions with guidance for assessing hazards after a large local earthquake that could inhibit safe evacuation from tsunami hazard areas.”

Brussels International Airport Forms Evacuation Scenarios With GIS: Balancing Continuity, Containment, and Free Movement
ArcNews, Spring 2004

“Brussels, Belgium, is the power base of the European Union (EU), and as one of Europe’s top tourist destinations, the city attracts people from all over the world. Brussels International Airport is a busy place with a babel of languages—the EU alone accounts for 11 official languages, and there are a host of others from countries as diverse as Ireland and Luxembourg—and a mix of people from frequent flyers to first timers. Coming together all at the same time are business visitors in a hurry, arriving in the morning to leave again the same evening; more leisurely visitors starting a week of sight-seeing; travelers from all over EU heading off to see friends or family; 21,000 airline and airport employees; and nine million square feet of floor space. It’s like market day in a small town where a lot of people are slightly bewildered, first-time visitors.”

Revisiting the Glenrosa Fire: Evacuation modeling with ArcGIS Network Analyst 10

ArcUser, January 2011

Mike Price

On July 18, 2009, at approximately 2:30 p.m., a small wildfire started in wooded hills west of Glenrosa, a neighborhood in West Kelowna, located on Lake Okanogan in southeastern British Columbia—an area that has seen its share of wildfires.”

Identifying Special Needs Populations in Hazard Zones: How to Use TapestrySegmentation for Disaster Evacuation Planning

ESRI White Paper, July 2009

“This document provides an overview of a geodemographic study that was conducted to help fire departments in Central Virginia better understand the psycho-social dynamics impacting evacuation efforts among special needs populations during an emergency evacuation. The purpose of the study was to determine the applicability of traditional marketing techniques to support the planning efforts of emergency services personnel. In this particular study, the goal was to support planning efforts to prepare and mitigate the need for assistance for special needs populations during an emergency evacuation. The study produced valuable insights that will help emergency personnel understand and communicate with these important members of our communities. This report summarizes the results of these findings and provides recommendations for advancing the methodology for more widespread access to the techniques described. The tools used to develop the analysis include ArcGIS® Business Analyst desktop software, ArcGIS Business Analyst Segmentation Module desktop software, Tapestry™ Segmentation data, demographic data, consumer expenditure data, and market potential data.”

Fighting California’s Zaca Fire with Geospatial Technology

ArcWatch, February 2008

“California has a long history of fires—from the destructive blazes that were sparked by the great 1906 San Francisco earthquake to more recent wildfires in heavily populated San Diego, San Bernardino, and Los Angeles counties. In 2007, the state endured one of its most damaging forest fires in history: the Zaca fire.”

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