TxDOT Practices for Mass Evacuation in Case of Natural Disaster


Contact: Brad Wheelis

Phone: (512) 832-7060

Date: July 26, 2018


AUSTIN – In the event of a natural disaster, such as a hurricane, the TxDOT Austin District is prepared to make US 290 a one-way highway, flowing westbound. A drill earlier this month simulating such a disaster put crews and the district’s new Emergency Operations Center (EOC) to the test.

The EOC is designed to handle all communications and coordinate with teams in the field in an emergency. The district decided to test those teams with an exercise mimicking a hurricane on the Texas coast. Crews were dispatched to set up a contraflow, turning all traffic on US 290 westbound, toward Austin. Adding capacity would allow more people to get out of harm’s way faster. During the drill, crews located the necessary equipment needed to perform a contraflow and then drove to designated segments of the highway where, during an emergency, cones and signs would be set up to redirect traffic. They were asked to report back any problems they encountered or anything they thought might be an issue in the field.

“It’s important for us to hold these drills to work out any challenges we might encounter, before we put the plan into effect during an actual emergency,” said TxDOT Austin District Engineer Terry McCoy. “The men and women in the district are always ready to step up during natural disasters. These exercises ensure we have the best possible plan of action.”

Managers used the exercise to test communications, assignments and logistics in order to identify improvements that could be made to the contraflow plan. New software technology is being used to enhance communication, and the EOC is set up to monitor field operations via live traffic cameras and GPS-tracking devices installed on TxDOT vehicles.

TxDOT plans to operate another exercise this fall to test the district's readiness for winter ice events.

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The Texas Department of Transportation is responsible for maintaining 80,000 miles of road and for supporting aviation, rail, and public transportation across the state. Through collaboration and leadership, we deliver a safe, reliable, and integrated transportation system that enables the movement of people and goods.  Find out more at TxDOT.gov. "Like" us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

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