Federal Evacuation Policy: Issues for Congress [November 12, 2008]   [open pdf - 123KB]

"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 an 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 that 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 particular circumstances or needs. In responding to these challenges, Then-senator Obama introduced S. 1685 in the 109th Congress which would have directed the Secretary of Homeland Security to ensure that each state provided detailed and comprehensive information regarding its pre-disaster and post-disaster plans for the evacuation of individuals with special needs in emergencies. President-elect Obama indicated during his campaign that he would continue to pursue similar evacuation polices. Another facet of evacuation is sheltering displaced individuals. For short-term sheltering, federally provided resources include food, water, cots, and essential toiletries. When displaced individuals need long-term sheltering, federal policy provides financial assistance for alternative accommodations such as apartments, motels and hotels, recreational vehicles, and modular units. [...]This report discusses federal evacuation policy and analyzes potential lessons learned from the evacuation of individuals from Hurricane Katrina. Several issue areas that might arise concerning potential lawmaking and oversight on evacuation policy are also highlighted. This report will be updated as significant legislative or administrative changes occur."

Report Number:
CRS Report for Congress, RL34745
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