Review of California Wildfire Evacuations from 2017 to 2019

Review of California Wildfire Evacuations from 2017 to 2019

Authors: Stephen D. Wong, Jacquelyn C. Broader, Susan A. Shaheen, PhD Date: March 2020 Abstract:  Between 2017 and 2019, California experienced a series of devastating wildfires that together led over one million people to be ordered to evacuate. Due to the speed of many of these wildfires, residents across California found themselves in challenging evacuation situations, often at night and with little time to escape. These evacuations placed considerable stress on public resources and infrastructure for both transportation and sheltering. In the face of these clear challenges, transportation and emergency management agencies across California have widely varying levels of preparedness for major disasters, and nearly all agencies do not have the public resources to adequately and swiftly evacuate all populations in danger. To holistically address these challenges and bolster current disaster and evacuation planning, preparedness, and response in California, we summarize the evacuations of eleven major wildfires in California between 2017 and 2019 and offer a cross-comparison to highlight key similarities and differences. We present results of new empirical data we collected via an online survey of individuals impacted by: 1) the 2017 October Northern California Wildfires (n=79), 2) the 2017 December Southern California Wildfires (n=226), and 3) the 2018 Carr Wildfire (n=284). These data reveal the decision-making of individuals in these wildfires including choices related to evacuating or staying, departure timing, route, sheltering, destination, transportation mode, and reentry timing. We also present results related to communication and messaging, non-evacuee behavior, and opinion of government response. Using the summarized case studies and empirical evidence, we present a series of recommendations for agencies to prepare for, respond to, and recover from wildfires....
Leveraging the Sharing Economy to Expand Shelter and Transportation Resources in California Evacuations

Leveraging the Sharing Economy to Expand Shelter and Transportation Resources in California Evacuations

Authors: Stephen Wong and Susan Shaheen, PhD Date: June 2019 Abstract: In 2017 and 2018, California was severely impacted by a number of devastating wildfires that required thousands of people to evacuate. These evacuations were hampered by poor communication, traffic congestion, and transportation and shelter resource deficiencies. To ensure that all citizens have both transportation and shelter in evacuations, agencies must consider alternative strategies for expanding resources, such as leveraging the sharing economy. This policy brief presents key research findings from the report “Current State of the Sharing Economy and Evacuations: Lessons from California” as well as policy recommendations for evacuation planning at the state and local level. View...
Current State of the Sharing Economy and Evacuations: Lessons from California

Current State of the Sharing Economy and Evacuations: Lessons from California

Authors: Stephen Wong and Susan Shaheen, PhD Date: June 2019 Abstract:  In many evacuations including wildfire evacuations, public agencies often do not have enough resources to evacuate and shelter all citizens. Consequently, we propose that the sharing economy, through private companies and/or private citizens, could be leveraged in disasters for transportation and sheltering resources. To assess this feasibility, we distributed surveys to individuals impacted by three major wildfires in California: 1) the 2017 October Northern California Wildfires (n=79), 2) the 2017 December Southern California Wildfires (n=226), and 3) the 2018 Carr Wildfire (n=284). Using these data, we find that private citizens are moderately to highly likely to share transportation and sheltering resources in future disasters, but numerous reservations persist about sharing. We also find significant spare capacity in evacuating  vehicles and potential homes. To supplement this work, we also conducted four focus groups (n=37) of vulnerable populations to determine the benefits and limitations of a sharing economy strategy in terms of equity. Groups included low-income (2017 December Southern California Wildfires), older adult (2017 October Northern California Wildfires), individuals with disabilities (2017 October Northern California Wildfires), and Spanish-speaking (2018 Mendocino Complex Wildfire). We find that while severe equity limitations exist, groups were able to develop several recommendations for successfully leveraging sharing economy resources for the general population and their specific vulnerable group. We conclude with several local agency and statewide recommendations for building a sharing economy framework for California to prepare for future evacuations. View...