Homeland Security Watch

News and analysis of critical issues in homeland security

October 12, 2006

Report rates cities’ emergency evacuation preparedness

Filed under: Preparedness and Response,State and Local HLS — by Christian Beckner on October 12, 2006

Reuters reports today on a new study by the American Highway Users Alliance that examines 37 major urban areas in the U.S. on how prepared they are to manage emergency evacuation, either in the event of a natural disaster or a terrorist attack. The results are not good, as Reuters notes:

The American Highway Users Alliance study of the 37 largest urban areas showed that 25 of the biggest cities were less prepared for a major evacuation than New Orleans, which struggled during Hurricane Katrina in 2005 to empty the city before and as it flooded.

The only city to score a top grade for evacuation capability and preparedness was Kansas City, Missouri. The cities that received the lowest scores included Los Angeles, Chicago, New York, Miami and the San Francisco/San Jose area.

“The big cities with the biggest traffic problems right now face the biggest challenge,” said Greg Cohen, president of the organization. “Los Angeles did the worst. It has legendary traffic jams on a daily basis.”

The cities were evaluated on internal traffic flow, highway capacity of major exit routes and residents’ accessibility to automobiles.

You can see the comprehensive list of city scores on page 6 of the report. Every first tier risk city in the U.S. gets an ‘F’ on the study.

The report’s recommendations are fairly general: better standards and reporting, better planning, and increased roadway capacity and automobile access. I would go a step further, and argue that this set of vulnerabilities needs to be a stronger factor in homeland security grants (particularly the UASI program) and federal highway spending allocations.

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