Susan Smith has worked as an editor and writer in the technology industry for over 16 years. As an editor she has been responsible for the launch of a number of technology trade publications, both in print and online. Currently, Susan is the Editor of GISCafe and AECCafe, as well as those sites’ … More »
The Pedestrian Evacuation Analyst software from USGS is here
September 25th, 2014 by Susan Smith
In response to recent catastrophic natural disasters such as the earthquake and tsunami in Tohoku, Japan in 2011, the hurricanes of the Gulf of Mexico, and the Colorado floods of 2013, the Pedestrian Evacuation Analyst software has been developed by USGS. The reason for the focus on pedestrians in evacuations is that during the brief period of time between the onset of a disaster and the arrival of the consequences of the event, citizens generally evacuate themselves without a government mandate, and they are usually on foot, across the landscape (according to Wood and Schmidtlein, 2012).
In cases where there is tremendous flooding or tsunamis, evacuation would be to higher ground but that isn’t always available. Evacuation modeling has revealed that some kind of vertical-evacuation structures may be good to have in a critical area.
According to the USGS report, researchers use both static least-cost-distance (LCD) and dynamic agent-based models to assess the pedestrian evacuation potential of vulnerable communities. Although both types of models help to understand the evacuation landscape, LCD models provide a more general overview that is independent of population distributions, which may be difficult to quantify given the dynamic spatial and temporal nature of populations (Wood and Schmidtlein, 2012). Recent LCD efforts related to local tsunami threats have focused on an anisotropic (directionally dependent) path distance modeling approach that incorporates travel directionality, multiple travel speed assumptions, and cost surfaces that reflect variations in slope and land cover (Wood and Schmidtlein, 2012, 2013).
This anisotropic path-distance approach for pedestrian evacuation from sudden-onset hazards is used by the Pedestrian Evacuation Analyst software. The research is focusing on local tsunami threats at this time. Using the model, analysts can evaluate evacuation potential based on elevation, direction of movement, land cover, and travel speed. The model creates a map showing how long it will take to get to safety throughout a hazard zone. Looking at at-risk communities that don’t have the option of higher ground to evacuate to, the Pedestrian Evacuation Analyst gives researchers a way to study how well vertical-evacuation structures might work in a given area, using the time maps and population data generated in the model.
The goal is that the software will help researchers to provide timely information to communities who need a pedestrian evacuation plan in place in the event of sudden-onset hazards.