Evacuation & Transportation

Access & Functional Needs
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When local evacuations become necessary, considerations for the whole community including accessible transportation options, medical needs, and keeping individuals connected with their families, personal care providers, essential equipment & technologies, and service animals are important. Proper planning is essential to a successful evacuation. Emergency evacuation plans should be viewed as living documents because communities change and integrating the needs of people with AFN is a dynamic process. Emergency managers with their local communities should regularly practice, review, revise, and update their plans to reflect changes in technology, personnel, and procedures.




Implementing a large-scale evacuation and meeting the transportation needs of people with access and functional needs is a major challenge – a challenge that can be met through an inclusive planning process beginning long before a major disaster prompts an evacuation. Planning should include everyone from transit providers and emergency managers to advocacy groups, licensed care facilities, first responders, hospitals, schools, nonprofit organizations and people with access and functional needs themselves.


Evacuation and Transportation Planning Guidance

The California Department of Transportation - "Transit Emergency Planning Guide" and the companion "Technical Appendices" is a synthesis of industry best-practices for transit emergency preparedness, prevention, response, and recovery.

Consider the following in your evacuation and transportation planning:

  • Do plans identify how individuals with access and functional needs will be evacuated from their community
  • What plans currently exist and are multiple entities dependent on the same provider(s)? Are protocols or memorandums of understanding/agreement (MOU/MOA)in place to avoid confusion when accessing and deploying assets?
  • Do plans identify the transportation providers that will be responsible for and have the capacity to move individuals with access and functional needs from schools, neighborhoods, medical facilities, nursing facilities, etc.?
  • Are disability and older adult transportation providers incorporated into evacuation plans (including the use of vehicles, drivers and dispatch)?
  • Do drills/exercises incorporate first responders, accessible transportation providers and people with access and functional needs as victims?


Evacuation plans for people with access and functional needs must be integrated into local government emergency plans to ensure that evacuations are well coordinated.

To assist with transportation emergency planning and MOU/MOA development, checkout Caltrans "Transit Emergency Planning Guide" and the companion "Technical Appendices."


The use of voluntary registries has been a topic of discussion with state and local emergency planners, and within the disability community. Some jurisdictions have developed pilot registries in which most people with access and functional needs chose not to participate. Offering registries connotes implications that jurisdictions should consider.

  • May be perceived as a promise or guarantee by local government that the registrants will be provided with evacuation services. Jurisdictions should carefully consider the implications of such perceived promises, as disclaimers do not tend to change perception.
  • There may be a tendency by a jurisdiction to view those on the registry as the only ones who need assistance.
  • Focus on the registrants first rather than looking at the population more broadly.
  • If designed based on individual residential information only, planning will have a major gap as disasters can occur any time of the day.
  • There are Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) considerations that must be factored into the development and deployment of registries.
  • Maintenance of information on the registry (location of individual and medical information).
  • Potential legal liabilities.
  • Unrealistic expectations on first-responders capability in a disaster. It is important not to focus on the "who" in planning but to look at the population in broader terms. If communication, evacuation, sheltering and recovery plans have integrated the needs of people with access and functional needs, response and recovery will be more effective.


Access and functional needs and at-risk populations can reach nearly to infinity (e.g. disabilities, languages, age). Many of these "classifications" can compound the sense of vulnerability for the potential transit client in an emergency. For example, people with access and functional needs may not want to draw attention to the fact that they live alone, making them even more vulnerable for predators.

Local jurisdictions are encouraged to leverage existing disability and older adults service systems, such as In-Home Supportive Services, Meals-on-Wheels and Paratransit, as opposed to creating new registries. Information can be gleaned from a variety of sources to provide the comprehensive information necessary to inform emergency planning and response.


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