Disasters and Populations at Risk: Lack of Vehicle Makes Evacuation Difficult

Lack of access to a vehicle, poverty, and disabilities, can make evacuation difficult or impossible for some households.

Florida’s Gov. Rick Scott Wednesday issued a dire warning to south Florida residents in the face of catastrophic Hurricane Irma. “I cannot stress this enough,” the governor said. “Do not ignore evacuation orders.” Miami-Dade County has since issued a mandatory evacuation order for coastal cities.

But not everyone can get out of harm’s way. Lack of a vehicle can make evacuation difficult at best for families in neighborhoods within Irma’s possible storm surge zone.

The map at left shows at-risk neighborhoods in Florida, Georgia, and South Carolina in which ten percent or more of households do not have access to a car and more than ten percent of families are living in poverty.

This interactive map utilizes data from the American Community Survey using Populations at Risk and storm surge models from NOAA’s National Hurricane Center.

At the neighborhood (Census Tract) level, data are reported within a range.

The State of Florida has done extensive planning and work to prepare for disasters and potential evacuations.

With good mapping capabilities, disaster planning can target assistance to the most vulnerable populations–those without vehicles, those who cannot afford to travel, or those whose disabilities may make evacuation physically challenging. Evacuation assistance and emergency shelters can be prioritized according to the neighborhoods most likely to face the greatest hardship.

For those preparing for disasters of all kinds–from hurricanes and floods to wildfires and earthquakes–knowing the location of the most vulnerable people and the kind of assistance they need can help emergency responders target their resources.

The map below focuses on downtown Miami and Miami Beach to show the most vulnerable neighborhoods in which one-in-ten families is living in poverty and one-in-ten families does not have access to a vehicle. In these areas, many residents will have no option but to shelter in place unless outside assistance is provided.

Data on the location of vulnerable populations is available for every U.S. Census Tract (neighborhood), city, county, and state using Headwaters Economics’ free online tool, Populations at Risk.