The June 2006 plan provided by the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) for this study represents the most recent version of the State evacuation plan. Good communication exists between the coastal area and the cities some 30 to 50 miles away, such as Houston. In the six months prior to the start of the Atlantic hurricane season, Houston authorities update public maps, share them with the public, and coordinate on improvements for the upcoming season.
Each year, regional DPS officers meet with local jurisdictions to review the plan and update it to reflect new road construction and other changes.
Those areas that are more likely to evacuate meet regularly to ensure the plan is up-to-date.
For Houston, police monitor the traffic control points during an evacuation, and consider improvements to the transportation portion of the plan. In early April 2010, the Houston TranStar announced the launch of a new Web-based emergency evacuation mapping system that will improve the coordination of major evacuation efforts in the Gulf Coast region. Houston currently benefits from a Homeland Security Grant to address evacuation planning as a part of catastrophic planning. The interviewees reported the following most significant impediments along NHS routes that may impact effective large-scale, mass evacuations from the Houston metropolitan area. Bottlenecks - As the population of Houston travels outward, they would encounter roads that narrow to 2 lanes which may create bottlenecks under certain heavy outflow scenarios.
Number and Type of Resources to Deploy - Officials continue to struggle with how many, what types, and where to deploy responders and other resources to support evacuation operations.


More CCTV Cameras - The various cameras along the evacuation corridors allowed officials to observe traffic and make better projections on when the congestion will dissipate. Houston area leadership meets regularly at TranStar, Houston's regional traffic and emergency management center which also houses public safety and Houston Metro, to discuss hurricane, hazardous materials or other triggers that might lead to an evacuation. The interactive evacuation status map will allow transportation managers, law enforcement and other first responders to use real-time information to coordinate and monitor traffic flow, personnel deployment, weather and other conditions during large-scale evacuations. Often, these authorities make evacuation decisions in real-time as updated weather and road conditions information is received. The lengthy review process before the revised State plan can be approved results in a time lag between changes in local plans and changes to the State DPS-approved plan. The local MPO may support evacuation planning by developing tools for their jurisdictions and aiding in regional coordination.
As a result from what was learned from Hurricane Rita, Houston realized that their evacuation plan needed to extend 100 miles outside the city.
More critical to the success of the plan is that both the police and emergency managers make changes to the plan together. In addition, the city of Houston is implementing a completely new public safety communications system (700 MHz).
During Hurricane Ike in 2008, local officials demonstrated that they had made progress to communicate a consistent message. Often, the team discusses the evacuation and shelter-in-place plans, the latter used for chemical release or weather events.


Both the police and emergency managers talk to the transportation operation people about routes, roads, including talking with engineers regarding traffic signals to ensure that the plan includes updates and that they understand current limitations.
For example, the Houston-Galveston Area Council of Governments (HGAC), as the Region's MPO, developed a database with all of the traffic management locations.
Though local involvement previously existed in plan development, involvement in plan updates increased at all levels of government as they discovered gaps from recent major events, including Hurricane Rita. The communications equipment purchased by Houston works on both the 700 MHz and 800MHz to allow integrated communications. Houston TranStar created the state-of-the-art evacuation system by incorporating the latest ITS technologies to improve the safety and efficiency of major evacuation efforts. The Houston MPO is much more active in the development of the plan than the receiving cities' MPOs. The respondents noted that the officer making the calls in the local region maintains the updated version, from which local decision makers base their evacuation decisions.



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Comments

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