Hurricane Rita caused nine deaths after it slammed ashore near the Texas-Louisiana border in September 2005. Ironically, 28 people were killed in the mass evacuation before the storm. Poorly conceived and executed evacuation plans result in wide-ranging social and economic devastation. Despite this, most cities in Canada do not have detailed evacuation plans. Halifax provides an excellent test case for mass evacuation planning for several reasons. It exists on a hurricane path, which has caused devastation before. The city has critical infrastructure that is operated by different orders of government and the private sector (a situation that obscures accountability and increases risks caused by interdependence). Also, the peninsula has few exit points, which can generate unanticipated human reactions and technical complexity.

The goal of this study is to improve coastal city evacuation processes in response to tsunamis and extreme maritime weather, such as hurricanes and associated storm surges. We will develop flood and evacuation scenarios for the Halifax peninsula,  conduct semi-structured interviews with emergency managers to gauge their experience and expectations, and determine the extent to which their expectations align with legalities and actual coordination capacity. This research will produce two principal outcomes: a publicly available report that summarizes our findings and recommendations for improving coastal evacuations, and a prototype for a collaborative game that can be used to train emergency managers for different evacuation scenarios.

This work will be supported by the Marine Environmental Observation Prediction and Response Network (MEOPAR).