Working across Disciplines to Understand and Improve Mass Evacuations: Examining Different Types of Risk and Contextual Pressures

  • Quigley, Kevin (Principal Investigator)
  • Quigley, John (Co-investigator)

Project: Research

Project Details


People who are responsible for mass evacuations during natural disasters are confronted with significant challenges: they must allocate and coordinate limited resources in a dynamic context, often in degraded conditions, and their decisions are consequential, time-constrained and often irreversible. Despite the risks that underpin these decisions and the real-world experience that exists in this domain, there is a dearth of study and knowledge concerning how those responsible for mass evacuation carry out their jobs, and how it might be generalized and improved. These events happen rarely and are dispersed across the country; this, coupled with bureaucratic and market constraints, diminish incentives and opportunities to study such low probability events. Yet there is reason to be concerned. From a national perspective, these events are happening much more often, and at a growing and significant human, financial and environmental cost.

This research project brings together a group of practitioners and scholars with expertise and experience in risk and evacuation. Our partners come from a variety of sectors, including academe, emergency management, telecommunications, politics and the voluntary sector, such as the Red Cross and Salvation Army. The project will be structured according to two interdisciplinary risk frameworks to allow us to examine the interplay between social context and risk characterization to determine the combined impact the two have on government risk regulation regimes. Contextual factors include dynamics such as the role of law and insurance, media and popular opinion, and the role of organized interests. Risk characterization distinguishes between those events that are complex, uncertain and ambiguous.

Our specific objectives are as follows.
1. Partner leading risk scholars with those that are responsible for mass evacuation to develop a shared understanding of evacuation risks.
2. Examine what guides the thinking and actions of those responsible for evacuation, considering the knowledge we have of certain risks and the contextual pressures that are exerted on the regime.
3. Improve dialogue between researchers, practitioners and communities in this domain.
4. Contribute to training tools, such as online tests and a tactical decision game, that help to train emergency managers to address risks during mass evacuations.
Short titleMass Evacuations
Effective start/end date1/04/2031/03/23