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Communities with the most limited evacuation routes in the US revealed

Areas with constrained evacuation routes can face challenges in getting residents to safety before a disaster hits, as happened in 2018’s Camp Fire in Paradise, California.

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Arizona is one of the states identified as having evacuation challenges
Arizona is one of the states identified as having evacuation challenges

Florida, California, Arizona, Texas, and Washington have been identified as the US states with the most limited evacuation routes and consequently rank highest for “evacuation risk”.

 

In a bid to help towns across the country better prepare for the worst, Streetlight Data, mobility metrics specialist, has released the findings of a nationwide study of the top 100 communities with ‘constrained’ evacuation routes.

 

Major natural disasters

 

The unveiling of the results coincides with the US entering peak season for major natural disasters, including wildfires in the west and hurricanes in the east.

 

Evacuation risk can apply to floods, fires, dam breaks, hurricanes, tornadoes, and other emergencies.

 

Communities and towns with limited evacuation routes can face challenges in getting residents to safety before a disaster hits, as happened in November 2018’s Camp Fire in Paradise, California, which was the most destructive and deadly in the state’s history.

 

To help identify the communities and towns most affected by constrained evacuation routes, StreetLight Data analysed the 30,000 towns in the US with populations under 40,000 (according to US census data).

“As we head into peak season for several types of natural disasters, from fires to hurricanes, there is no better time to review our disaster preparedness across the country”

Incorporating its proprietary machine-learning algorithms, Streetlight then ranked the top 100 by evacuation risk from a transportation perspective. Evacuation risk was determined by how many of the location’s daily trips enter and exit the town and via what route(s), adjusted for the number of available exits and overall population.

 

StreetLight Data’s evacuation route analysis revealed that the five US states with the most evacuation-challenged communities are: Florida (20 communities); California (14 communities); Arizona (eight communities); Texas (six communities); and Washington (six communities)

 

“As we head into peak season for several types of natural disasters, from fires to hurricanes, there is no better time to review our disaster preparedness across the country,” said Paul Friedman, chief technical officer, Streetlight Data, and the study’s key analyst.

 

“Transportation infrastructure, and sharing information about transportation options, is one part of the complex requirements of disaster and evacuation preparation. We hope this data can be a useful support to those working in this challenging field.”

 

The 20 US communities with the most constrained evacuation routes are:

  1. Camano, Washington
  2. Hilton Head Island, South Carolina
  3. Mercer Island, Washington
  4. Hutchinson Island South, Florida
  5. Sanibel, Florida
  6. Fort Myers Beach, Florida
  7. Carpendale, West Virginia
  8. Pahrump, Nevada
  9. Nahant, Massachusetts
  10. Skidaway Island, Georgia
  11. North Bay Village, Florida
  12. South Beach, Florida
  13. Coto de Caza, California
  14. Golden Beach, Maryland
  15. Six Shooter Canyon, Arizona
  16. Immokalee, Florida
  17. Hoyt Lakes, Minnesota
  18. Bell Canyon, California
  19. Long Beach, New York
  20. Siesta Key, Florida

Additional takeaways of the analysis showed that:

  • 29 states have at least one community on the 100 most-constrained list;
  • The five most-constrained communities are islands;
  • Two of the 10 most-constrained communities are landlocked. One of the three states with the most-at-risk communities is landlocked;
  • While we often think of coastal areas as constrained, many of the 100 most-constrained communities include canyons or localities by lakes with minimal exits.

“This data is not a robot that tells authorities what to do. But it is, we hope, a helpful tool in their toolbox,” added Laura Schewel, CEO and co-founder, Streetlight Data.

 

“We hope they use this data to help prioritise evacuation planning resources in the regions that have the most concentration. Evacuation planning and management is an overwhelming job, especially as it is becoming more frequent.”

 

In the long term, Streetlight Data said it would like to see transportation authorities use this data to consider building redundant infrastructure (or other infrastructure improvements) in at-risk towns in a proactive way.

 

As mobility impacts many aspects of a smart city, Streetlight Data is also working on several other areas including: tourism (measuring where tourists go to help with economic development planning, signage, new parks and amenities); safety (described as a new angle of transportation); and workforce development (for example, if a city has trouble hiring workers for night shifts at restaurants).

 

For an interactive national map of the communities with the most limited evacuation routes, go to Streetlight Data.

 

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