Double the Trouble: A Playbook for COVID-19 and Evacuations



Stephen Wong, PhD, Jacquelyn Broader, Adam Cohen, Susan Shahen, PhD


February 1, 2021


Evacuation and response plans require thoughtful strategies that build mandatory evacuation order compliance, reduce vehicular congestion, and increase social equity for disadvantaged populations. However, the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic coincided with a series of devastating disasters in 2020 that have required mass evacuations, leading to several new compounding effects (i.e., “double the trouble”). Strategies typically used in evacuations (e.g., high-capacity vehicles and public congregate shelters) and movements of people (e.g., evacuees, first responders, and volunteers) could increase the risk of COVID-19 spread and exposure. Moreover, disadvantaged populations who are already disproportionately impacted by disasters and COVID-19 separately could face new challenges in dual crises. To address these new and growing challenges, this playbook employs insights from case studies (n=12), survey data of individuals impacted by public safety power shutoff (PSPS) events (n=210), and expert interviews (n=17). Using these data, the playbook: (i) shares recent lessons learned from case studies of compounding disasters during the pandemic; (ii) offers a primer for the potential compounding impact of PSPS events and disasters; (iii) highlights current considerations in the emergency management and evacuation fields; and (iv) provides a series of actionable checklists to address COVID-19 and a compounding disaster. Relevant stakeholders in disasters and evacuations that should use this playbook include public agencies, first responders, community-based organizations, non-governmental organizations, private mobility companies, public health facilities, and other evacuation stakeholders. The playbook can be adapted for multiple hazards, different local contexts, various agency types, and future pandemics.

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Posted on

April 27, 2021