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A GIS-Based Model to Determine Site Suitability of Emergency Evacuation Shelters

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In recent years, the increase in the number of hurricanes and other costal hazards in the US pose a tremendous threat to the residents of coastal states. According to the National Hurricane Center, Florida is the most vulnerable coastal state to hurricanes. Mitigation policies have been formulated to reduce mortality and provide emergency services by evacuating people from the hazard zone. Many of these evacuees, particularly the elderly or lower income populations, rely on evacuation shelters for temporary housing. Because of the cost and limited use, evacuation shelters are almost exclusively dual use shelters where the primary purpose of the facility is for some other public function (e.g. school, hospital, etc.). In 2000, the estimated shortage of public shelter spaces in Florida was about 1.5 million. The purpose of this study was to rank the existing and candidate shelters (schools, colleges, churches and community centers) available in the state based on their site suitability. The research questions examined in this study include: (1) How many candidate shelters are located in physically suitable areas (e.g. not in a flood prone area, not near hazardous facilities, etc.)?; (2) How many existing shelters are located in physically unsuitable areas, but in socially suitable areas (situated in areas with demand)?; (3) How many alternative existing and/or candidate shelters with high/very high physical suitability are located near physically unsuitable existing shelters and thus, may be better choices for a shelter?; and (4) How many existing shelters located in physically unsuitable areas are not near alternative existing and/or candidate shelters? A Geographic Information System-based suitability model integrating Weighted Linear Combination (WLC) with a Pass/Fail screening technique was implemented for the 17 counties of Southern Florida. It was found that 48% of the existing shelters are located in physically unsuitable areas. Out of all the candidate shelters, 57% are located in physically unsuitable areas. For 15 of the existing shelters in unsuitable locations, no alternative candidate or existing shelter with medium to high physical suitability exists within 10 miles (16.1 km).
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Keywords: Global Positioning Systems; LIDAR; NSSDA; Root Mean Square Error; TIGER; accuracy standards; geocoding; positional error

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Department of Geography University of South Carolina

Publication date: April 1, 2008

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