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"Evacuation Evaluation" -- The Discovery Files

The Discovery Files
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A study sponsored by the National Science Foundation found that most respondents felt the evacuation of New Orleans residents to the Superdome after Hurricane Katrina was a "failure" and this opinion has shaped their willingness to accept shelter if offered in an emergency evacuation.

Credit: NSF/Karson Productions

Audio Transcript:

(Sound effect: traffic jam) Get Outta Town.

(Sound effect: theme music) I'm Bob Karson with the discovery files--new advances in science and engineering from the National Science Foundation.

(Sound effect: hurricane) Few of us will ever forget the scenes from the Superdome in New Orleans during hurricane Katrina. An in-depth study led by Virginia Tech looks at evacuation procedures and how we may be able to do a better job.

The study is the first of its kind to integrate social science perspectives with transportation engineering--conducted in two Chicago-area neighborhoods with a high risk of evacuation due to (Sound effect: railcar) the amount of toxic materials that pass nearby. The demographic makeup is substantially different: The first, Logan Square, is mostly Latino with a high concentration of new arrivals from Mexico and Puerto Rico. The other, Blue Island, is a mixed-race, low to middle-income community on Chicago's south side. 50 questions were submitted to some 300 families.

The findings underscore the need to carefully evaluate the socioeconomic, cultural, and even geographical makeup of the area in question. For instance, one of the factors was how many stay-at-home moms there are. While government statistics show an average of 10 percent, in Logan Square actual immigrant mothers outside the workforce came in around 60 percent. (Sound effect: inner-city sounds) The more we get into a neighborhood, the better we can safely get them out.

"The discovery files" covers projects funded by the government's national science foundation. Federally sponsored research--brought to you, by you! Learn more at or on our podcast.

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