Evacuation routes are accessways that are constructed above flood levels and that connect flood risk areas to mainland areas that are safely above flood plains. Evacuation routes can be integrated with a transportation network by constructing a new elevated road or by designating a lane on an existing road as an evacuation route. Evacuation routes are included in the flood protection management plans of communities that are vulnerable to flooding. Evacuation routes are equipped with the appropriate signage that conveys the importance of flood control and the potential for flooding within a community. Ultimately, the effectiveness of evacuation routes is dependent on the allocation of resources towards maintaining an efficient road network and the type of evacuation that is triggered by a flood event.

How it works

Types of evacuation routes

  • Pre-emptive evacuations are undertaken where it is obvious that a delay may impede evacuation efforts.
  • No-notice evacuations are undertaken where a threat is affecting a community, where decisions must be taken with limited information, and when waiting for additional information may increase the impact of a disaster event on a community.
  • Partial evacuations are contained within localized areas within a municipality.
  • Widespread evacuations are undertaken where a disaster, e.g., a flood event affects an entire district, city, or region. Widespread evacuations involve the movement of large amounts of evacuees. Large-scale evacuations are more likely to place a higher demand on transportation networks and therefore as a short-term measure, some evacuees may be required to shelter in place. 8


  • Allow coastal communities to quickly move out of harm’s way before or when a disaster event occurs
  • Can be integrated into a wider resilient road network
  • Roadways that are elevated above flood plains could serve as temporary evacuation centers 9
  • Provides easy access to emergency shelters before and during a disaster event 9


  • Can be expensive depending on the scale of the infrastructure required
  • Evacuation rates may exceed the capacity of the evacuation route
  • Effective use during a disaster requires coordination with the wider road network system
  • Extreme events may lead to the excessive build-up of traffic that could create adverse effects on the transportation network. 10 11

Example projects

City of Richmond Evacuation Plan

Richmond BC, Canada

The City of Richmond provides an evacuation plan that outlines the basic protocols and responsibilities and the coordination of resources that are required for evacuation.5 The evacuation plan covers the organization of transportation and the availability of evacuation routes, in the event of an emergency. In the event of an emergency, evacuation routes are activated by the City’s EOC or Site Incident Commander, to quickly move the public to areas of safety.6 Existing evacuation routes provide access from Richmond into Vancouver, New Westminster, Surrey, North Delta, Delta, Mitchell Island, and Lulu Island.7

Windsor Flood Evacuation Route

Windsor SYD, Australia

In 2003, the development of a new flood evacuation route was proposed by the Roads and Traffic Authority of Syndey northwest.1 The proposed design included a 2.6 km elevated roadway that is 12 meters above the floodplain that stretches across the South Creek.2 The project was designed to address the challenges related to environmental sensitivities, soil type, and erosion.3 The evacuation route was officially opened in 2007 and now provides egress during flood events and relief for traffic congestion on Windsor Road.4


  1. 1.

    “Windsor Flood Evacuation Route.” Aurecon, https://www.aurecongroup.com/projects/transport/windsor-flood-evacuation-route.

  2. 2.


  3. 3.


  4. 4.


  5. 5.

    City of Richmond. Richmond Evacuation Plan. 12 Dec. 2008, pp. 42. https://www.richmond.ca/__shared/assets/evacuation_plan23714.pdf.

  6. 6.

    Ibid, 42.

  7. 7.

    Ibid, 42-43.

  8. 8.

    Ontario Mass Evacuation Plan Annex: (2013). Guideline for the Development of a Municipal Evacuation Planhttps://docs.google.com/document/d/1C2F1qnnybjJl3F4FTZVDjUQ_CnlzER61/edit?pli=1

  9. 9.

    Green Roads for Water. (n.d). https://roadsforwater.org/guideline/coastal-lowlands/roads-as-temporary-flood-shelters-and-evacuation-routes/

  10. 10.

    Tamima, U., & Chouinard, L. (2012). Framework for earthquake evacuation planning: case study for Montreal, Canada. Leadership and Management in Engineering, 12(4), 222-230.

  11. 11.

    Helderop, E., & Grubesic, T. H. (2019). Flood evacuation and rescue: The identification of critical road segments using whole-landscape features. Transportation research interdisciplinary perspectives, 3, 100022. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2590198219300223

  12. i1.

    Figure 1. Aurecon. (n.d). Windsor Flood Evacuation Route, Australia. https://www.aurecongroup.com/projects/transport/windsor-flood-evacuation-route

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