Federal Evacuation Policy: Issues for Congress [January 18, 2011]   [open pdf - 200KB]

"When government officials become aware of an impending disaster, they may take steps to protect citizens before the incident occurs. Evacuation of the geographic area that may be affected is one option to ensure public safety. If implemented properly, evacuation can be an effective strategy for saving lives. Evacuations and decisions to evacuate, however, can also entail complex factors and elevated risks. Decisions to evacuate may require officials to balance potentially costly, hazardous, or unnecessary evacuations against the possibility of loss of life due to a delayed order to evacuate. Some observers of evacuations, notably those from New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina, claim evacuations pose unique challenges to certain segments of society. From their perspective, special-needs populations, the transit-dependent, and individuals with pets faced particular hardships associated with the storm. This, they claim, is because some evacuation plans, and the way in which they were carried out, appeared to inadequately address their unique circumstances or needs. […] While federal law provides for certain aspects of civilian emergency evacuation, evacuation policy generally is established and enforced by state and local officials. In recent years, Members of Congress have focused, in part, on policy options that addressed issues of equity during evacuations as well as attempts to integrate federal, state, and local evacuation efforts more fully. This report discusses federal evacuation policy and analyzes potential lessons learned from the evacuations of individuals in response to the Gulf Coast hurricanes of 2005. Several issue areas that might arise concerning potential lawmaking and oversight on evacuation policy are also highlighted."

Report Number:
CRS Report for Congress, RL34745
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