Pamela Murray-Tuite looks into ways to evacuate

The way people evacuate during emergencies could become even more effective. Virginia Tech researchers are working to make the process easier and save lives.

“Unfortunately I think each disaster teaches us something new,” said Dr. Pam Murray-Tuite, a Civil Engineering Associate Professor with Virginia Tech.

She hopes with the help of a team of researchers, using three National Science Foundation grants for a variety of studies, people will be well rehearsed before a real emergency.

“There is still a lot to learn and there is a lot of improvement we can make,” Murray-Tuite said.

Things such as uncertainty in aspects of decision making under pressure.

Researchers are looking into how evacuations are handled and what you do before you leave.
Do you get food, gas, or money? What route do you take, what time of day do you leave, and how you leave your home or business and all factored into the study.

Other factors such as income, priorities, and social media influences are all being studied to reduce uncertainty.

“Are people tweeting about their perception of the hurricane? Are they tweeting about what they are going to do?” Murray-Tuite said.

Researchers are interviewing and surveying people, and pulling data from social media to possibly make upgrades to mandatory or voluntary evacuation plans.

“Maybe that leads to them issuing evacuation recommendations or orders at different times from when they currently do or providing more or less shelter,” Murray-Tuite said.

They’re research is starting now. They hope their findings not only help government agencies but homeowners and drivers make better decisions.

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