Be aware of the challenges of disseminating travel information during disasters in rural areas.

Experiences of a panel of experts in disaster information dissemination.

28 March 2006
Columbus,Ohio,United States

Background (Show)

Lesson Learned

As part of the study on “Communicating with the Public Using ATIS during Disasters,” the panel of experts on disaster information dissemination was asked to discuss and provide feedback on sample disaster scenarios. In discussing the disaster scenario for a rural condition, the participants developed a number of lessons learned that demonstrate the special challenges in rural areas of communicating with the public during a disaster. These lessons learned are highlighted below.
  • Be aware of the challenges due to limited infrastructure. In rural areas, the limited infrastructure may mean that ITS devices, such as Dynamic Message Signs, travel information websites, and phone systems, may not be available. Disaster managers may have to rely on more traditional information dissemination options. Media outlets, including radio, television, and newspapers are likely to be the only sources of information for many rural residents.
  • Know what resources are available in advance. As previously stated, media outlets may be the only information source available in rural areas. The advantage of having fewer information sources is that people will know which outlets to turn to for information, and the messages being disseminated have a reduced chance of being changed or distorted. However, this also requires that the media be a trusted part of the process. Sometimes, agencies can also depend on the citizens themselves as sources of information for their neighbors, friends and surrounding communities.
  • Plan ahead for multi-lingual evacuations. The evacuation of ethnic communities in rural areas needs to be planned for in advance. It is important to establish contacts with emergency personnel who can speak the language of the community members (i.e. Spanish or French).
  • Identify the location of potential animal and farm shelters. In rural farm communities, residents are often reluctant to leave their farm animals behind. Identifying the location of potential animal and farm shelters can help agencies plan for evacuations of these rural farm communities more easily.
  • Plan for a reduction in carrying capacity or a complete failure. Similar to urban areas, rural areas need to plan for a disruption in their communications infrastructure. When such problems occur, the number of information tools may become limited to battery powered portable (or car) radio.
During a disaster, transportation agencies need to be aware of the special challenges in rural areas of communicating with the public. In particular, agencies need to plan for limited infrastructure and limited information resources, as these will affect the dissemination of information. By taking into account the special needs of rural areas, transportation agencies will be better able to effectively communicate with rural populations, resulting in improved disaster management operations and improved public safety.

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Communicating with the Public Using ATIS During Disasters - Concept of Operations

Author: Mala Raman and Carol Zimmerman, Battelle; Todd Kell and Chris Bausher, PBS&J

Published By: U.S. Department of Transportation -Federal Highway Administration

Source Date: 28 March 2006

EDL Number: 14262

Other Reference Number: FHWA-JPO-06-024

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Lesson Contacts

Lesson Contact(s):

Carol Zimmerman
202- 646-7810

Agency Contact(s):

Thomas Bruccoleri
619- 699-7381

Lesson Analyst:

Margaret Petrella
RITA/Volpe National Transportation Systems Center


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Lesson ID: 2007-00416