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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Double the Trouble: A Playbook for COVID-19 and Evacuations

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Evacuation and response plans require thoughtful strategies that build mandatory evacuation order compliance, reduce vehicular congestion, and increase social equity for disadvantaged populations. However, the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic coincided with a series of devastating disasters in 2020 that have required mass evacuations, leading to several new compounding effects (i.e., “double the trouble”). Strategies typically used in evacuations (e.g., high-capacity vehicles and public congregate shelters) and movements of people (e.g., evacuees, first responders, and volunteers) could increase the risk of COVID-19 spread and exposure. Moreover, disadvantaged populations who are already disproportionately impacted by disasters and COVID-19 separately could face new challenges in dual crises. To address these new and growing challenges, this playbook employs insights from case studies (n=12), survey data of individuals impacted by public safety power shutoff (PSPS) events (n=210), and expert interviews (n=17). Using these data, the playbook: (i) shares recent lessons learned from case studies of compounding disasters during the pandemic; (ii) offers a primer for the potential compounding impact of PSPS events and disasters; (iii) highlights current considerations in the emergency management and evacuation fields; and (iv) provides a series of actionable checklists to address COVID-19 and a compounding disaster. Relevant stakeholders in disasters and evacuations that should use this playbook include public agencies, first responders, community-based organizations, non-governmental organizations, private mobility companies, public health facilities, and other evacuation stakeholders. The playbook can beadapted for multiple hazards, different local contexts, various agency types, and future pandemics.

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