Defining Evacuation

It may seem obvious that the term ‘evacuation’ defines itself and needs little discussion. However, consider the evacuation that takes too long, injures evacuees or leaves too many special needs people behind. Consider the possibility of a place being overwhelmed when people resettle there. In reality evacuation can amount to merely relocating a problem. Is an evacuation that does more harm than good worth speaking about and planning for? We need a more precise definition. Here’s one from an academic study by two professors at the New Jersey Institute of Technology, Stephen Chien and Vivek Korikanthimath:

“Efficient evacuation can be defined as a process to safely transport people and goods away from a place or an area within an acceptable time period in an orderly fashion.”

The type of event can dictate an even more precise definition of evacuation. In an emergency which comes upon a city instantly, there may be a need for “simultaneous” evacuation. If there is some advance warning notice of the event then evacuation may take places in stages. As the same study indicates:

“Under simultaneous evacuation, all vehicles are evacuated concurrently; on the other hand, in staging, vehicles are evacuated by zones in a particular sequence.”

The increased degree of difficulty in simultaneous evacuation with no notice is obvious – too many people and vehicles trying to use the same routes at the same time. Of course police could be used to help smooth out the process but this presumes enough order and infrastructure remains to deploy police, and enough healthy police officers to perform tasks at hand.

Also, evacuating one community may cause problems for others – but the people in danger or facing hardship have to go somewhere. So, perhaps the real question is how to move large numbers of people around, rather than just relocating them.