Pandemic Urbanism

May 14, 2020

Double the Trouble: Evacuations During Simultaneous and Dueling Crises

By Stephen Wong (, website)
Doctoral Candidate, University of California, Berkeley

Coauthor: Susan Shaheen

The author will give this presentation at the Pandemic Urbanism Symposium in a session titled “Post-Pandemic Mobilities,” from 2:00 – 3:00 PM on May 29, 2020.

In the coming months, multiple jurisdictions across the United States will be faced with the challenge of responding to and recovering from simultaneous and dueling disasters and crises. COVID-19 has led to widespread stay-at-home orders, social distancing measures, and new sanitation policies to control the spread of the virus. Yet, natural disasters across the United States (particularly wildfires, hurricanes, and flooding) require large populations to evacuate, protecting lives. To effectively evacuate people and ensure social equity, governments need a wide range of strategies including leveraging high capacity public transit, facilitating resource sharing among neighbors, housing people in public shelters, encouraging friends and family to shelter evacuees, and working in close proximity and directly with the public to manage response and recovery. However, evacuations and these strategies directly conflict with COVID-19 response and recovery. The resulting conflict will have severe consequences, leading to rapid increases in COVID-19 infections and deaths and/or more rescues, injuries, and deaths from the natural hazard. To address the critical challenge of simultaneous and dueling crises that can compound impacts, this presentation would provide a brief overview of potential tools and strategies for governments, first responders, community-based organizations, and non-governmental organizations to facilitate safe and effective transportation responses in evacuations during the COVID-19 crisis. The goal of the presentation is to encourage practitioners to consider the implications of simultaneous disasters and make necessary policy and planning changes to reduce the negative impacts of the hazard and COVID-19.