Urban-to-Rural Evacuation Planning Toolkit

Public health emergencies, natural disasters and other emergency scenarios can lead to spontaneous evacuation of urban residents into surrounding suburban and rural communities. Without careful planning, such population surges can overwhelm rural infrastructure, straining fuel, food, lodging and medical resources. This toolkit, developed by the Western New York Public Health Alliance (WNYPHA) Advanced Practice Center (APC), is a resource for rural and suburban emergency preparedness planners and public health officials considering the impact urban-to-rural evacuations could have on their communities.

The toolkit consists of three parts: the planning tool, the planning guide and additional resources. To aid preparedness planning, the online, map-based Urban to Rural Evacuation Planning Tool provides a model to help estimate the number of evacuees that may arrive in a county following a disaster in a nearby city. The Rural Preparedness Planning Guide supplements this tool by offering recommendations for pre-event, event and post-event planning. Additionally, policy analysis briefs and webcasts provide background information on urban-to-rural evacuation, citing data collected from interviews with experts and a national survey of urban residents to assess evacuation intentions.

 

Urban to Rural Evacuation Modeling Tool

The Urban to Rural Evacuation Modeling Tool is an online, map-based application that predicts rural and suburban population surge following potential urban disasters and provides information on county resources important to preparedness planning. It was developed primarily to estimate the numbers and travel directions of urban evacuees in order to stimulate effective prepardeness planning. Users can currently choose from three planning scenarios: dirty bomb, pandemic flu or chemical incident. The model uses scenario-specific variables to determine how urban residents are "pushed" into surrounding areas. "Pull" variables are based on the resources, distances and other aspects of neighboring counties. The result is an easy-to-use interface allowing users to view the number of evacuees predicted to arrive within each nearby county or the change in county populations that would result . The tool also displays the available resources of each county, such as hotel rooms, campgrounds and hospitals.

***Note:   For tracking and evaluation purposes, REGISTRATION is required to access the Urban to Rural Evacuation Modeling Tool. All APC products, including the Urban to Rural Evacuation Tool, are available to health departments in the United States free of charge. ***

 

Rural Preparedness Planning Guide: Planning for Population Surge Following Urban Disasters

 

Designed to complement the Evacuation Planning Tool, the planning guide answers the question, "so, now what?" by providing tangible, actionable planning recommendations for rural communities in the areas of pre-event, event and post-event planning. Each section includes recommendations, checklists and completion dates for task assignments. Recommendations included in this guide are based on actual population surge experiences of a panel composed of rural public health and preparedness officials from across the United States.    To download a PDF (2.7 MB; Requires Adobe Reader) of the Rural Preparedness Planning Guide, click here.

 

 

 

Additional Resources

 

Issue Briefs

With funding from the Federal Office of Rural Health Policy (ORHP) in the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, researchers at NORC at the University of Chicago, a WNYPHA APC partner, explored the issue of urban-to-rural evacuation through key informant interviews and a national survey. Briefs produced by the Walsh Center for Rural Health Analysis at NORC are provided here as background on the issue of urban-to-rural evacuation. (The full project report is also available from the NORC website.)

 

 

Urban-to-Rural Evacuation: Planning for Population Surge.

 

In order to identify the major issues surrounding potential evacuations of urban residents into rural communities and to provide recommendations for how rural planners might prepare their communities for a population influx, this four-page brief presents the findings from interviews with national preparedness experts and both urban and rural local emergency preparedness planners. Experts and planners expressed concern about the strain that urban evacuees, who are either traveling to or through rural communities, are expected to place on rural infrastructure. The interviews suggest the need for estimates of the number of evacuees to facilitate rural preparedness planning. They also encourage coalitions between urban and rural areas and recommend that rural planners predetermine sites for receiving and triaging evacuees. To download a PDF (125K; Requires Adobe Reader) of the brief, click here.

 

Spontaneous Evacuation Following a Dirty Bomb or Pandemic Influenza: Highlights from a National Survey of Urban Residents'   Intended Behavior

 

This brief presents the key findings from a national survey that assessed the evacuation intentions of urban citizens following two emergency scenarios: detonation of a radiological device and an influenza pandemic. The survey found that many urban residents will evacuate their homes and communities following a disaster or public health emergency, even against governmental advice. More than half of respondents indicated that they would be likely to travel to a rural destination. These findings highlight the possible challenges facing an overwhelmed rural infrastructure, including strained fuel, food, lodging and medical resources. Estimates of the numbers, travel directions and characteristics of evacuees are necessary to allow for effective preparedness planning. To download a PDF (1.2 MB; Requires Adobe Reader) of the brief, click here.

 

 

Webcasts

The Center for Public Health Preparedness in the School of Public Health at the University at Albany, also a partner of the WNYPHA APC, produced two broadcasts on the issue of urban to rural evacuation. The broadcasts are archived and available for viewing (requires RealPlayer) from the Center for Public Health Preparedness website:

 

WEBCAST:  Mass Evacuation to Rural Communities. November 9, 2006. The presenters, Brian Gerber, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, Division of Public Administration, School of Applied Social Sciences, West Virginia University and Donald Rowe, Ph.D., Public Health Liaison, School of Public Health and Health Professions, University of Buffalo, share results of a recent survey regarding potential behavioral responses of large populations to disaster events - including terrorist attacks - and discuss key concerns for rural communities to consider as they plan for mass exodus from urban centers. They also share efforts underway at that time by the WNYPHA Advanced Practice Center. This presentation was intended for a national audience of state and local public health professionals and their partners.

 

WEBCAST:  Mass Evacuation to Rural Communities II. October 11, 2007. Presenters Michael Meit, M.A., M.P.H., Deputy Director, Walsh Center for Rural Health Analysis, NORC at the University of Chicago and Paul Kuehnert, M.S, R.N., Executive Director of the Kane County Health Department share research results related to mass evacuation to rural areas, practical tips to deal with mass evacuees, as well as previewing a tool developed by the Western New York Public Health Alliance Advanced Practice Center to predict community population surge following potential urban disasters. This presentation was intended for a national audience of state and local public health professionals and their partners.

 

 

 

If you encounter difficulties accessing any of the resources contained in this toolkit, or if you have questions about the development of the resources or about related projects, please contact Michael Meit, NORC at the University of Chicago, at (301) 634-9324 or meit-michael@norc.org.

 

For more information about the Western New York Public Health Alliance Advanced Practice Center, please contact Tracy Fricano Chalmers, Program Manager, at (716) 961-6865 or Tracy.Chalmers@erie.gov.

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