Pedestrian Evacuation Analysis for Tsunami Hazards
Abstract:Recent catastrophic tsunamis in the last decade, as well as the 50th anniversary of the 1964 Alaskan event, have heightened awareness of the threats these natural hazards present to large and increasing coastal populations. For communities located close to the earthquake epicenter that generated the tsunami, strong shaking may also cause significant infrastructure damage, impacting the road network and hampering evacuation. There may also be insufficient time between the earthquake and first wave arrival to rely on a coordinated evacuation, leaving at-risk populations to self-evacuate on foot and across the landscape. Emergency managers evaluating these coastal risks need tools to assess the evacuation potential of low-lying areas in order to discuss mitigation options, which may include vertical evacuation structures to provide local safe havens in vulnerable communities.
The U.S. Geological Survey has developed the Pedestrian Evacuation Analyst software tool for use by researchers and emergency managers to assist in the assessment of a community’s evacuation potential by modeling travel times across the landscape and producing both maps of travel times and charts of population counts with corresponding times. The tool uses an anisotropic (directionally dependent) least cost distance model to estimate evacuation potential and allows for the variation of travel speed to measure its effect on travel time. The effectiveness of vertical evacuation structures on evacuation time can also be evaluated and compared with metrics such as travel time maps showing each structure in place and graphs displaying the percentage change in population exposure for each structure against the baseline. Using the tool, travel time maps and at-risk population counts have been generated for some coastal communities of the U.S. Pacific Northwest and Alaska. The tool can also be used to provide valuable decision support for tsunami vertical evacuation siting.