Expert: Gustav Evacuations and Planning Going Well

Release Date: August 31, 2008

BUFFALO, N.Y. -- So far, reports from the field suggest that the mandatory evacuation of New Orleans in advance of Hurricane Gustav is proceeding in a reasonable manner, says a University at Buffalo researcher who spent eight days in New Orleans in 2005 studying evacuation plans and decision making in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

"An important change since Hurricane Katrina is that there is no 'shelter of last resort,'" explains Daniel B. Hess, Ph.D., assistant professor of urban and regional planning in the UB School of Architecture and Planning.

"The existence of which in 2005 gave residents of New Orleans -- many of them without automobiles or other means to self-evacuate -- the impression that there were sufficient provisions for their stay during and after the hurricane."

According to Hess, the message throughout New Orleans, with Gustav approaching, has been clear and consistent -- everyone must evacuate.

"Early preparations for individuals, pets and institutions, and especially the contracted airlift of evacuees, suggest improved hurricane evacuation measures," says Hess. "As always, of great concern is the safe evacuation of frail older adults and hospital patients."

Hess's research in New Orleans in the aftermath of Katrina focused on investigating hospital disaster preparedness and response and finding ways to strengthen the resilience of medical infrastructure during extreme events, such as hurricanes and floods.

He currently is studying the ability of Upstate New York cities and regions to perform a complete evacuation during an extreme event. His other projects have focused on emergency planning for and security assessment of surface transportation in cities and regions, especially public transit systems.

Hess can be reached at (716) 829-2133 x202 or

Extreme-event mitigation is a strategic research strength of UB; university faculty have expertise in earthquake engineering, the design of resilient communities, disaster response, and the design of systems to detect and prevent the spread of dangerous biological agents.

The University at Buffalo is a premier research-intensive public university, a flagship institution in the State University of New York system and its largest and most comprehensive campus. UB's more than 28,000 students pursue their academic interests through more than 300 undergraduate, graduate and professional degree programs. Founded in 1846, the University at Buffalo is a member of the Association of American Universities.

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