Passenger vessels and emergency evacuation

Several studies are examining the role of transit operations, including passenger vessels, in evacuating people from dangerous locations and situations such as terrorist attacks, hurricanes and earthquakes.

The Transportation Research Board of the National Academies is conducting one of these studies, the “Role of Public Transportation in Emergency Evacuation.” The $565,000 policy study is evaluating the role that public transit systems, including boats, serving the nation’s 38 largest urban areas could play in the nation’s security. The study will assess the ability of these systems to accommodate the evacuation, egress, and ingress of people to or from critical locations during emergency situations. It will focus on the share of trips that could potentially be handled by transit in an emergency in these 38 areas.

A committee made up of emergency planners, transit operators, security experts and scholars will analyze existing literature, a few case studies, and state and regional emergency evacuation plans. The case studies will examine alternate evacuation scenarios and consider the availability of alternate routes and modes.

In the maritime arena, certain urban areas such as San Francisco have developed standardized procedures for vessel assistance, communications, personnel swapping for maintenance and logistic support, alternative use of vessel landings, and fueling sources.

More vessel owners and operators in other geographical areas may be encouraged by local, regional, and/or national emergency response officials to prepare plans to accommodate such future emergency evacuation requirements. The plans could include the use of floating transportation platforms such as tugs, towboats and recreational vessels to supplement local passenger vessels.

Capt. Beth Gedney of the Passenger Vessel Association, Alexandria, Va., is monitoring the TRB study and others and is available to assist passenger vessel owners and operators to prepare plans. Beth can be reached at 800-807-8360, ext. 26.

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