Unit 6: Predictions and Evacuation
- Make observations from several sources (newspaper, interview, video, personal account) about past evacuations.
- Relate the importance of science in making public interest decisions.
- Apply the concept of uncertainty in predictions.
- Compare perspectives of different stakeholders and present those perspectives to the class in order to make or recommend a decision for a specific scenario.
This unit relates to the following Earth Science Literacy Big Ideas:
- Natural hazards pose risks to humans.
- There are a number of grand challenges facing society, and hurricanes are one example.
Context for Use
This unit is designed as a culminating activity of the Natural Hazards and Risks: Hurricanes module. The unit may be used in any course discussing natural hazards, or can be modified to fit a variety of earth, atmospheric, and marine science courses. The unit is appropriate for introductory-level college students considering the societal importance of natural hazards, or for upper-level students conducting more in-depth discussions of the economic, sociological, and other factors of evacuations. The unit can be implemented as an in-class discussion or panel, or modified to be used as a take-home individual essay or exam question.
Description and Teaching Materials
Video and Discussion
Have students watch the following 2-minute video (MP4 Video 22.2MB Nov2 12) of a Connecticut resident discussing her decisions to evacuate for Irene in 2011 but remain at home for Sandy in 2012 and then discuss:
Hurricane Irene (2011), while devastating in parts of the country, did not affect the Connecticut coast very much. How do you think this impacted Connecticut coastal residents' response to the warnings about Sandy in 2012?Transcript of video interview (Acrobat (PDF) 25kB Nov30 17)
Generate List of Stakeholders
Instruct students to read the New York Times article on Hurricane Isaac (could be done as homework) and compile a list of stakeholders in an evacuation. Next, you or your students can select four to seven stakeholders for the scenario below (e.g., (1) scientists from the state department of environmental protection, (2) state department of transportation, (3) local fire department, (4) owners of bookstore, (5) local Red Cross chapter, (6) college president, (7) director of local hospital).
(Student handout (Acrobat (PDF) 410kB Jul17 14)). Instruct students to work in pairs for 10 minutes representing one of the different stakeholders. Next, have students present their recommendation for evacuation (yes, no, timing of evacuation based on interests) to the class. The instructor should take notes on the board and then either make a decision (as the town mayor), or hold a vote (as if the class were the town council). To wrap up the activity the instructor can summarize that in the face of uncertain scientific data and competing interests, these decisions are not easy.
Roles for the panel. These can be modified by the instructor for particular situations or class sizes. Instructors can incorporate readings, prior discussions, and student research to outline the most probable dilemmas and positions for the decision maker(s) and stakeholders. Examples of stakeholders:
- Government official (mayor, governor)—weighs the costs of an evacuation against the costs of rescue, and considers the importance of timing. Note that the president of the United States does not decide when/where to evacuate.
- Federal agency (FEMA, other federal government representative)—adherence to mandatory evacuation orders directly affects aftermath. Note that the Federal Emergency Management Administration (FEMA) is directly responsible for processing loss claims.
- Scientists with local knowledge of floodplains will be able to give best assessment of key areas to evacuate and weigh timing of tides and landfall.
- Business owner (e.g., of a hardware store who wants to stay for fear of looting and stands to gain money selling things people need).
- Hardware store owner's husband (or other private citizen) who wants to leave because he does not think it is fair for the taxpayers to have to pay for unnecessary rescues.
- Single parent property owner who feels he has to stay because he does not have transportation for himself and his three kids. There is a difference between the property owner and the business owner in terms of security, loss, protection, emotional connection, and other factors.
- Mass transit official—get out, protect equipment and people, but may leave some stranded in advance of the hurricane (including, buses, trains, planes, and keeping roadways clear for emergency vehicles).
- First responders (National Guard w/local fire and police first, then FEMA, then Coast Guard to rescue)—want people out with plenty of lead time, less rescue resources needed.
- Hospital official will want to ensure patients are taken care of (many of whom might need power for life-maintaining equipment), and would want plenty of lead time for evacuation of the sickest.
Teaching Notes and Tips
- Include the rubric with the question to help focus students' thoughts.
- Instructors may want to refine the list of stakeholders for particular locations or storms.
- Having students role-play is a great way for them to confront the issues and realize the range of perspectives and ways to deal with uncertainty. More about role-playing from SERC: http://serc.carleton.edu/introgeo/roleplaying/index.html.
- Explain the challenges of making the decision to evacuate prior to hurricane landfall 1) from the perspective of a local government official issuing such an order, and 2) from your own personal perspective, following such an order.
- Rubric Example Rubric for Evacuation Debate (Excel 2007 (.xlsx) 29kB Dec16 12) for evaluation of the panel/oral presentations.
Alternative assessment 1:
- Do a written self/peer evaluation of (a) delivery and (b) whether you were convinced.
Alternative assessment 2:
- Part of being a scientist is being able to communicate to the general public. Write a press release to the public that clearly communicates the findings of the panel. (For example, you may want to include the overall decision, the rationale for why it was made, as well as the timing or different recommendations for different groups.)
References and Resources
- Schwartz, John and Campbell Robertson, "Hurricane Isaac Makes Landfall Along Gulf Coast," http://www.nytimes.com/2012/08/29/us/tropical-storm-isaac-on-verge-of-becoming-a-category-1-hurricane.html?nl=todaysheadlines&emc=edit_th_20120829 New York Times, August 28, 2012.
- Mangan, Katherine, "As Hurricane Isaac Approached Louisiana, College Applied Lessons from Katrina," The Chronicle of Higher Education, September 10, 2012 http://chronicle.com/article/Lessons-From-Katrina-Applied/134256/?cid=at&utm_sour.
- A management perspective on stakeholders in a hurricane evacuation.
Additional related role-playing activities: