RES2021-10 - UTK Rapid Emergency Evacuation Planning, Assessment for Tourist Attractions and Isolated Communities

Each year, the U.S. experiences hundreds of significant disasters and emergencies that prompt intervention from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) in the form of financial and logistical support. Additionally, numerous other emergency events may not receive national declarations but still pose grave risks to human life. Tennessee is no stranger to such crises, frequently experiencing severe storms, floods, and fires. The state has also been affected by other weather-related calamities like tornadoes, severe ice storms, snowfalls, and even hurricanes that have been declared national emergencies. Notable examples include the severe flooding in Knoxville in 2019 (DR-4427) and Nashville in 2010 (DR-1909), as well as the devastating wildfires in Gatlinburg in 2016 (DR-4293), all of which received presidential disaster declarations. In numerous officially recognized and under-the-radar emergencies, prompt and large-scale evacuations often emerge as the critical immediate response for safeguarding the public. However, pulling off a seamless evacuation operation is a complex endeavor that demands meticulous planning and robust management, underpinned by the right tools. The Gatlinburg Fires in 2016 painfully revealed deficiencies in alternative transportation routes in the affected regions. While some local governments might have formal or ad-hoc evacuation procedures in place, executing them can present a multitude of challenges such as lack of a comprehensive plan or planning process; lack of sophisticated and comprehensive modeling tools; steep learning curve with modeling tools; and lack of significant resource commitment. To this end, this study developed a framework dubbed T-REX, or Tennessee Rapid Evacuation MicroSimulation, to mythologically code the roadway network, identify the likely evacuees and their location in the affected area, and expeditiously model various evacuation scenarios of these evacuees on the available roadway network. For the purpose of the study, touristy and smaller urban communities are the primary considerations because larger urban areas typically already have many alternative evacuation routes and comprehensive plans. But smaller areas tend to lack the resources and data needed to perform detailed traffic simulations. T-REX utilizes available, typically off-the-shelf, transportation network database and day/nighttime population at high resolution to create input data needed for sophisticated microsimulation, such as VISSIM and SUMO. Various scenarios can be modeled quickly to help evaluate existing plans, generate new evacuation plans, identify operational problems during evacuation, and provide “what-if” type options for scenario planning. For the purposes of this research, several locations in Tennessee were analyzed, namely: (1) Sevier County, encompassing the region impacted by the Wears Valley Wildfire in April 2022, (2) Central Nashville and its adjacent areas, (3) Manchester, home to the Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival, and (4) Lynchburg, renowned for tourist sites like the Jack Daniel's factory. The T-REX framework has showcased its adaptability across various Tennessee communities, affirming its potential for universal application in both tourist hotspots and urbanized areas. Its versatility suggests a promising avenue for collaboration with the Tennessee Department of Transportation (TDOT) to assist underserved communities in evacuation planning. Furthermore, this project underscores the pivotal role of evacuation loading rates in dictating evacuation efficiency. It also introduces novel evacuation approaches anchored in percolation theory, poised to boost community safety and readiness during emergencies.


  • English


  • Status: Completed
  • Funding: $194269
  • Contract Numbers:


  • Sponsor Organizations:

    University of Tennessee, Knoxville

    Center for Transportation Research
    Conference Center Building
    Knoxville, TN  United States  37996-4133
  • Managing Organizations:

    Tennessee Department of Transportation

    James K. Polk Building
    Fifth and Deaderick Street
    Nashville, TN  United States  37243-0349
  • Project Managers:

    Holliman, Austin

  • Performing Organizations:

    University of Tennessee, Knoxville

    Center for Transportation Research
    Conference Center Building
    Knoxville, TN  United States  37996-4133
  • Principal Investigators:

    Han, Lee

  • Start Date: 20200901
  • Expected Completion Date: 20220830
  • Actual Completion Date: 20230930
  • USDOT Program: Accelerating Deployment
  • USDOT Program: Accountability
  • USDOT Program: Advanced Research
  • USDOT Program: Automation and Connectivity
  • USDOT Program: Data Access and Exchanges
  • USDOT Program: Hazmat Safety
  • USDOT Program: Highway and Transportation Data
  • Subprogram: Center for Transportation Research
  • Subprogram: Emergency Planning Transportation Data Initiative
  • Subprogram: Research Evaluation Implementation Plan
  • Source Data: University of Tennessee

Subject/Index Terms

Filing Info

  • Accession Number: 01897693
  • Record Type: Research project
  • Source Agency: Tennessee Department of Transportation
  • Contract Numbers: RES2021-10
  • Files: RIP, STATEDOT
  • Created Date: Oct 27 2023 10:20AM