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Implementation and modeling of a Regional Hub Reception Center during mass evacuation operations

Cliff Wojtalewicz, MS, CEM®, LTC (R), Adam Kirby, MS, J. Eric Dietz, PhD, PE, LTC (R)


When developing response plans in the aftermath of a catastrophic incident, jurisdictions often fail to conduct the necessary interdisciplinary planning needed to fully address the needs across jurisdictional borders. The Purdue Homeland Security Institute (PHSI) was selected by the City of Chicago Office of Emergency Management and Communications (OEMC) in 2010 to lead an effort to address planning across jurisdictional borders during mass evacuations following a catastrophic incident. Specifically, PHSI was chosen to lead the effort in developing a planning and implementation guide for standing up a conceptual Regional Hub Reception Center (RHRC). A major component within the mass evacuation and sheltering continuum, the RHRC is designed to provide evacuees with quick-response mass care and emergency assistance while their other needs are assessed and appropriate shelter locations are identified. The RHRC also provides a central location to leverage governmental, nongovernmental, and private sector resources and is the first point in the evacuation, mass care, and sheltering concept of operations where more comprehensive support (food, shelter, medical, psychological, household pet sheltering, reunification, etc) can be expected. PHSI undertook this lead role working within the Illinois-Indiana-Wisconsin (IL-IN-WI) Combined Statistical Area (CSA) as part of the US Department of Homeland Security Regional Catastrophic Planning Grant Program. Coordinating closely with the City of Chicago OEMC and IL-IN-WI CSA Regional Catastrophic Planning Team, PHSI lead the research effort using resource and capability data compiled from all 17 jurisdictions within the IL-IN-WI CSA and validated the RHRC concept using three tabletop exercises. Upon completion, the PHSI team published the RHRC planning guide complete with procedures and processes that define the roles and responsibilities of government, nongovernment organizations, and private sector for providing RHRC mass care functions and RHRC capability and capacity assessments. This article further examines the potential for using simulation modeling as a cost-effective means to rapidly evaluate any facility for potential use as a RHRC and to measure and maximize RHRC operational efficiency. Using AnyLogic simulation software, PHSI developed a first-ever model of a theoretical RHRC capable of simulating, measuring, and manipulating RHRC operations under specified conditions/ scenarios determined by the emergency management planner. Future simulation modeling research promises to promote the Whole Community Approach to response and recovery by reinforcing interdisciplinary planning, enhancing regional situational awareness, and improving overall jurisdictional coordination and synchronization.


mass evacuation, regional hub, mass care and sheltering, catastrophic planning, evacuees processing, discrete event modeling, simulation modeling, evacuation modeling, Purdue Homeland Security Institute (PHSI)

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