Communication with Vulnerable Populations: A Transportation and Emergency Management Toolkit

The natural disasters encountered by the coastal states in 2005 increased national awareness of the role that public transportation has in planning, response, and recovery with regard to weather-related threats. State departments of transportation and their public transportation divisions were required to communicate and coordinate with local, state, and federal agencies with which they may have had little or no prior exposure. Emergency operation practices for natural disasters, such as hurricanes, flooding, tornadoes, and blizzards vary from state to state. In addition to varying on a state level, there may also be institutional differences in how operations and communications are handled among the highway divisions compared to public transportation and rail divisions. Two separate reviews of how transit agencies prepare for emergencies with a focus on vulnerable populations (i.e., transit-dependent, disabled, poor, low English proficiency, racial and ethnic minorities, etc.) were conducted by the Federal Transit Administration's (FTA's) Office of Civil Rights and the Conference of Minority Transportation Officials. FTA's 12-month review culminated in the release of Transportation Equity in Emergencies: A Review of the Practices of State Departments of Transportation, Metropolitan Planning Organizations, and Transit Agencies in 20 Metropolitan Areas. COMTO's expedited 2-month review--completed with a white paper entitled Emergency Preparedness and Response for Vulnerable Populations--was the focal point of a June 2007 discussion during its 2007 National Meeting & Training Conference. Both reports summarized existing preparedness and recovery policies and processes regarding vulnerable populations. What is abundantly clear in both reviews is that vulnerable populations--residents who have no other means of transportation when an evacuation is called for--must rely on public assistance. With no discernable means of communications to this specific population, there is a gap of awareness regarding the role of public transit agencies versus the public emergency response operations and the impact on the communities they serve. This gap was evident during the evacuation of New Orleans residents during Hurricane Katrina. It was evident in the 12-month review conducted by the FTA as well as in the review conducted by COMTO, and it is apparent that this gap still has not been fully addressed. The objective of this research is to identify and disseminate best internal and external planning, response, and recovery policies and practices pertaining to weather-related emergencies with an emphasis on specific outreach to vulnerable populations.


  • English


  • Status: Active
  • Contract Numbers:

    Project A-33

  • Sponsor Organizations:

    Federal Transit Administration

    1200 New Jersey Avenue, SE
    Washington, DC  USA  20590

    Transit Cooperative Research Program

    Transportation Research Board
    500 Fifth Street, NW
    Washington, DC    20001
  • Project Managers:

    Parker, Stephan

  • Performing Organizations:

    Louis Berger Group

    30A Vreeland Road
    Florham Park, NJ  USA  07932
  • Principal Investigators:

    Mobley, Jane

    Matherly, Deborah

  • Start Date: 20090827
  • Actual Completion Date: 20110926
  • Source Data: RiP Project 20034

Subject/Index Terms

Filing Info

  • Accession Number: 01462437
  • Record Type: Research project
  • Source Agency: Transportation Research Board
  • Contract Numbers: Project A-33
  • Files: TRB, RiP, USDOT
  • Created Date: Jan 3 2013 2:03PM