Charter buses work with FEMA during natural disasters, and typically, charter bus companies and FEMA plan ahead in a disaster-minded effort to prevent injury and help save lives. Anyone who has lived through a natural disaster knows how devastating natural disasters can be. Natural Disasters in 2017 — One of the Worst Years Ever
It’s a fact that 2017 was the most costly year for the U.S. in terms of natural disasters. According to an article in Vox1, the United States spent $306 billion on disasters in 2017. What kind of disasters took their toll?Hurricanes
- Heat waves
Approximately 4.7 million people filed with FEMA for government assistance. This statistic was 10 times the number of people filing in 2016.
Hurricanes Irma and Harvey ravaged the southern U.S., in Texas and Florida. And the destruction they caused in U.S. territories, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands was tremendous. The Midwest and South suffered from tornado outbreaks as well.
Extreme weather was the greatest factor in the 2017 natural disasters. Then, as 2017 came to an end and we began to usher in the new year, California saw the worst fires in its history. The year 2017 began with torrential rains in California, the wettest winter it had experienced in a century, ending the five-year drought but it resulted in massive floods. As California’s Oroville Dam sustained damage after a torrential rainfall, close to 200,000 people were forced to evacuate.
Large Scale Evacuations Require Transportation Solutions
How Does FEMA Coordinate with Transportation Services to Evacuate?
FEMA is a federal government agency, overseen by the Department of Homeland Security. FEMA’s stated mission is to:
“Support our citizens and first responders to ensure that as a nation we work together to build, sustain and improve our capability to prepare for, protect against, respond to, recover from and mitigate all hazards.”
FEMA coordinates with other government agencies and contracts companies in the private sector. One of its many functions is implementing mass evacuations to save people from catastrophes, whether a natural or manmade disaster.
The Post-Katrina Emergency Management Reform Act of 2007 authorized the use of federal funds to develop catastrophic mass evacuation plans. State authorities can coordinate with other nearby state authorities along with federal and local governments to determine destinations for evacuees. They also determine the flow of transportation assets.
It may be necessary to activate plans for evacuation as early as 72 hours before actually issuing the evacuation orders. Mass evacuations require mobilizing transportation resources ahead of time. Their plans also typically include measures for returning residents, post-event, to the previously evacuated areas.
An Historical Snapshot of FEMA
FEMA (the Federal Emergency Management Agency)3 has existed since April 1, 1979. Former President Jimmy Carter signed the executive order that brought FEMA into existence. In more recent times, FEMA took an active role in helping people recover from acts of terror during 9/11.
However, FEMA’s roots were inherent in the Congressional Act of 1803, which was the nation’s first legislation to address natural disaster. The government provided assistance to a New Hampshire town that was devastated by an extensive fire. Afterward, Congress passed additional legislation to deal with hurricanes, earthquakes, floods, etc. The federal government began taking a more active role during the 1930’s. It assisted with reconstruction of highways and bridges destroyed by natural disasters.
Hurricane Irma Triggered Mass Evacuations Last Fall
After Hurricane Harvey devastated Texas, and further hurricanes were forming in the Atlantic Ocean, other states in hurricane zones went on alert. The governor of Florida ordered state residents to evacuate Florida well in advance of Hurricane Irma’s projected landfall. Thousands of Floridians poured into their cars and flooded onto Florida freeways to evacuate ahead of the storm. Those who waited until the last minute were caught up in freeway gridlock that lasted for hours.
Charter buses are a vital means for transportation for many people in evacuation situations. While some people can self-evacuate, others are not able to do so. Nursing homes, assisted living facilities and senior living centers are wise to charter buses and transport residents to designated evacuation areas where they will be safe.
When sudden evacuation becomes an issue, large groups of children at school, in summer camps, at childcare facilities, in hospitals and at other locations may also need to be evacuated. FEMA works with private motorcoach companies to evacuate and return evacuated children to their parents when the disaster is over.
FEMA Outlines Key Considerations in Evacuations
FEMA considers many factors during a disaster, and several relevant to transportation include:
Weather forecasts. While weather forecasts have become increasingly accurate, forecasts that are five days in advance can’t pinpoint weather precisely. For example, whether a hurricane will turn east or west is often uncertain — such was the case with Hurricane Irma last year. Or how quickly the hurricane will downgrade to a tropical storm is another factor that can’t be pinned down exactly as to when and where.
Coordinating Transportation with Shelter Locations. FEMA must estimate the number of people needing to evacuate and the distance to the shelters. Will they be able to recycle vehicles and for how many trips? Other factors to consider are the special mobility and medical needs of the people evacuating and the availability of private motor coaches to meet these kinds of needs during evacuation. Will there be a need for assistance with medical care, communication with the special needs individuals or will the disabled have mobility issues?
Post-Evacuation Efforts and Transportation
Understandably, people are primarily concerned with escaping the initial disaster. Such catastrophes often involve making decisions that impact whether you potentially lie or die. Making the right decision weighs heavily on everyone’s minds. But, the truth is that once the disaster is over, most people must pick up their lives and figure out how to move on.
When homes and workplaces have been destroyed, we enter into a new phase of disaster relief —putting lives back together again. FEMA also plays a major role in the post-disaster stages.
An article published by FEMA after Hurricane Irma explained how FEMA coordinated the efforts of the federal family (federal agencies that collaborate in disaster situations) with state and local emergency responders to address survivors’ needs. Here are some statistics that bring light to a few of the efforts taken before and after:
More than 40,000 federal personnel worked in support of preparedness and response to Hurricane Irma
More than 2,650 FEMA staff with additional staff continued to deploy
The Departments of State, Defense, Interior and Homeland Security deployed thousands of personnel to provide logistical support for commodities, search and rescue and damage assessments to develop advance recovery efforts
FEMA Urban Search & Rescue (US&R) task forces in the Caribbean conducted 1141 rescues
FEMA US&R saved 1,006 lives in Florida.
The US Coast Guard (USCG) rescued 326 people, saved 53 pets and answered more than 1750 emergency phone calls
The Bus Industry’s Essential Role in Disaster Preparedness and Relief
You can get an idea of how the motor coach industry swings into action during disasters. The American Bus Association (ABA)4 posted an article last year about efforts made during Hurricane Harvey.
Dangerous flooding occurred after Harvey, and a shortage of available transportation hampered evacuations. The ABA put out an announcement calling for more motor coaches to assist with evacuations. The ABA agreed to forward information about companies that responded to FEMA along the FEMA transportation coordinator. The ABA explained that companies selected by FEMA would make a contracting arrangement with FEMA for payment.
At the time, the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMSCA) declared a regional emergency and temporarily lifted the hours of service regulations for drivers. The hours of service regulations are FMSCA rules that limit the number of consecutive hours a driver can drive the vehicle. Vehicle drivers operating under the declaration of emergency had to carry a copy of the declaration.
Usual times often call for unusual measures.
At US Coachways, we hope you’ve given you an idea of the vital role that the private motorcoach industry plays during natural disasters.
Ways in Which Motor Coaches Are Reliable Transportation
US Coachways has vehicles of all sizes to help transport passengers during disasters. At US Coachways, we also have ADA accessible buses with lifts, boarding devices and other facilities to assist passengers who are wheelchair bound or have other disabilities that limit their mobility. We are committed to being ADA compliant. In addition to handicapped-accessible motor coaches, we also have mini buses, vans and executive buses that are ADA-approved.
Statistically, motor coaches are the safest form of ground transportation there is — safer than cars, SUVs, pickup trucks and trains. Professionally trained drivers ensure safe pickups and returns for passengers.
Motor coaches are also greener than any other transportation mode, including hybrid cars. Large buses can carry many as 50 plus people. Based on mileage traveled and number of passengers, they leave the smallest carbon footprint of all vehicles.
We stand ready to help government agencies and individuals arrange transportation during times of natural or manmade disasters. Call our toll-free number 1-888-340-9122.