By Jody Cottrill, FEMA Region IV External Affairs
Hurricane Awareness week was the perfect time to provide new hurricane evacuation information to emergency managers in Mississippi and Alabama. This hurricane season both states have new studies to help guide local decisions on evacuations.
FEMA’s Hurricane Evacuation Studies gives coastal states and territories critical information to guide evacuation decisions. During the last several years FEMA developed the studies with local, state, and federal agency input.
Last week Brandon Bolinski and Rebecca Jennings, FEMA Region IV’s hurricane specialists, shared the new studies for Alabama and Mississippi with the states’ emergency management staff. Each study includes a behavioral study and analyses of hazards, vulnerability, shelters, and transportation. The studies help state and local authorities make decisions and calculate the time it will take to safely evacuate vulnerable populations before the arrival of hurricane conditions.
“The Hurricane Evacuation Studies and Hurrevac program are great tools for decision makers when dealing with hurricane evacuations,” said Bolinski. “They give state and local officials sound planning data and a common operating picture when hurricanes are threatening the state.”
The team also helped the Alabama Emergency Management and Mississippi EMA staff brush up on Hurrevac, a computer software program that provides a tool for guiding their real-time evacuation decisions. Hurrevac combines the clearance times from the Hurricane Evacuation Studies with hurricane forecast advisories from the National Hurricane Center to determine the decision times for planning and ordering evacuations.
“Hurrevac makes your job easier (as an emergency manger) to help you figure out the position of the storm, when it will start affecting land and when you should start doing your evacuations,” says Don Hartley, Alabama EMA regional coordinator.