DRC-Disaster Research Center

Active Studies

Corpus Christi,TX, 8/22/1999 -- The threat of Hurricane Bret, being rated at a force four, led to Padre Island and Corpus Christi being evacuated. Here, wise residents, under the advance winds and rains that lead the main storm, jam Hwy. 37 heading NW towards San Antonio out of Corpus Christi. Photo by DAVE GATLEY/FEMA News Photo


Corpus Christi, TX, September 10, 2008 -- A sign points the way for the Hurricane evacuation route in Texas. Hurricane Ike is expected early Saturday morning. Jocelyn Augustino/FEMA


Kure Beach, NC, 09/16/1999 -- (South of Wilmington) The population of these barrier islands were mandated to leave, with a curfew to follow set at 5 PM. Photo by Dave Gatley/ FEMA News Photo


Beaumont, TX, August 30, 2008 -- Hundreds of vehicles line the interstate outside of Beaumont, TX. Mandatory evacuation orders were made in east Texas near the Gulf Coast in advance of Hurricane Gustav's landfall. FEMA is working with State,local and other Federal agencies in a joint operation in preparation for Hurricane Gustav. Photo by Patsy Lynch/FEMA



DRU: Integrated Optimization of Evacuation and Mass Care Sheltering for Hurricanes

Principal Investigators: Rachel Davidson(PI), Tricia Wachtendorf (Co-PI); (With Linda Nozick (Co-PI); Cornell University)
Post-Doctoral Fellow: Palm Apivatanagul
Graduate Research Assistants: Bethanty Brown,Rochelle Brittingham
Undergraduate Research Assistants: Jeff Engle, Zephi Francis
Funding Agencies: National Science Foundation(NSF)

Study Description

This proposal seeks to improve understanding of and decision support for evacuation and mass case sheltering in hurricanes. In the past, math modeling in this application has been limited to estimating the time required to clear a region, assuming many characteristics of the problem are uncontrollable input (e.g., where shelters are located). Instead, we will expand the decision frame and use optimization models to support the full range of strategic and operational evacuation and sheltering decisions, with higher-level objectives such as minimizing life loss, cost, and inequity. These models will be developed through a tight interaction between sociologists and engineers to ensure that they are firmly grounded in the reality of people’s behavior. For the first time, the models will be based on individual hurricane scenarios instead of conservative aggregations of many events, and they will be dynamic, accounting for the fact that officials can update their decisions as an event unfolds and information about the situation changes. The project has 5 main steps: (1) determine a suite of hurricane scenarios for use in evacuation and shelter models such that they probabilistically represent the full range of possible events, but are limited in number enough to allow detailed analysis with each; (2) conduct focus groups of key decisionmakers and stakeholders to identify and characterize key decisionmaking elements; (3) using the focus group input, develop two mathematical optimization models—one long-term strategic and one short-term operational—for evacuation and sheltering decisions; (4) conduct surveys of affected citizens to test the validity of the optimization model assumptions and results; and (5) demonstrate the models with case study applications in North Carolina and Florida.