Newswise — A study released today by Florida Atlantic University’s Center for Urban and Environmental Solutions (CUES) found that the vast majority of counties in the Florida Panhandle were less prepared for emergency evacuation compared to the rest of the state. Of the 67 counties in Florida, 10 were rated as having weak levels of evacuation preparedness, and all of these counties were located in the Panhandle/North Florida. Eleven of 16 counties with moderately rated plans also were in this region. Only seven of the counties in the Panhandle had strong plans.
Florida has 67 counties and each county’s evacuation plan and accessibility to its evacuation preparedness information was analyzed. The plans for each community were categorized and rated according to six different components that addressed evacuation preparedness in a multidimensional way. Information was obtained from the county’s emergency services management websites, the Comprehensive Emergency Management Plans and/or Local Mitigation Strategies, and other links provided by the local governments.
The following sections summarize the results of the six components:
Special Needs Registries - This component analyzed the county’s local special needs registry sign-up process, accompanied by information regarding transportation and special needs evacuation shelters, if unavailable then whether it provided the link to the State of Florida Special Needs Registry, or if none of the above information was available to the public. It is important to note that Florida has a general database for each county allowing residents to register for special needs services.
Specialized Transportation for Individuals with Specific Needs - This component evaluated whether the county provided information regarding transportation for special needs populations, including times for pick-up and/or companion transport information, or if any transportation services were available for special needs population during an evacuation process.
Pick-up Location Plan - This component analyzed if the plan mentioned specific pick-up points, whether from designated evacuation plans and/or from current public transit routes going toward shelters, or if any methods of transportation are available during evacuations for the public.
Multi-hazard Evacuation Plan - This component evaluated whether the county has an available multi-hazard evacuation plan, or only a hurricane evacuation plan, or neither.
Plan for Pet Evacuation - This component evaluated the pet evacuation plans listed with pet shelters by local governments or if available through external websites, or if neither were available.
Provision of Evacuation Maps - This component observed if there was an available evacuation map by the county, or if it was available through the state or external websites such as the American Red Cross, or if neither were available.
Of the 67 Florida counties, 41 had strong plans, readily accessible by emergency preparedness agencies and the public; 16 had moderate access to evacuation plans, and 10 had weak plans or provided very limited access to evacuation information. It was observed that the clusters of those rated as moderate and weak (i.e., with limited access to evacuation preparedness information) were in the northwestern part of Florida also known as the Florida Panhandle. The 10 counties with weak accessibility previously mentioned include Holmes, Gulf, Liberty, Jefferson, Madison, Lafayette, Suwannee, Baker, Union and Bradford, all of them part of or in close proximity to the Florida Panhandle.
The study was led by John L. Renne, Ph.D., associate professor of urban and regional planning and director of FAU’s CUES within the College for Design and Social Inquiry. Public administration doctoral student Andrea Ramos assisted with data collection and analysis.
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About Florida Atlantic University:
Florida Atlantic University, established in 1961, officially opened its doors in 1964 as the fifth public university in Florida. Today, the University, with an annual economic impact of $6.3 billion, serves more than 30,000 undergraduate and graduate students at sites throughout its six-county service region in southeast Florida. FAU’s world-class teaching and research faculty serves students through 10 colleges: the Dorothy F. Schmidt College of Arts and Letters, the College of Business, the College for Design and Social Inquiry, the College of Education, the College of Engineering and Computer Science, the Graduate College, the Harriet L. Wilkes Honors College, the Charles E. Schmidt College of Medicine, the Christine E. Lynn College of Nursing and the Charles E. Schmidt College of Science. FAU is ranked as a High Research Activity institution by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. The University is placing special focus on the rapid development of critical areas that form the basis of its strategic plan: Healthy aging, biotech, coastal and marine issues, neuroscience, regenerative medicine, informatics, lifespan and the environment. These areas provide opportunities for faculty and students to build upon FAU’s existing strengths in research and scholarship. For more information, visit www.fau.edu.