An Assessment of the Return-Entry Process for Hurricane Rita 2005

August 2008 (VOL. 26, NO. 2)

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Return-entry is the movement of an evacuated population back to an area following the issuance of an all-clear message. This research examines the geographic, communication, and demographic factors that affect return-entry compliance rates using Hurricane Rita 2005 as a case study. Surveys were mailed to 1,200 households in a twelve county area comprising the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) return-entry plan. The results show that compliance with the Hurricane Rita return-entry plan was low, as 46.4% of respondents returned home on or after their scheduled return date, while only 23.2% returned on their exact scheduled return date. In addition, communication of the return-entry plan was relatively poor as 54.0% of evacuees reported receiving the all-clear message and 19.5% of respondents reported being aware of the TxDOT staggered return-entry plan. In regard to factors that affect the return process, a relationship was found between distance evacuated and return-entry date, in that the farther a household evacuates, the more likely it will return at a later date. A relationship was also found between scheduled return-entry date and compliance, as people scheduled to return to the zone that sustained damage (Day 3) had a higher rate of compliance than those evacuees who returned to the undamaged zone (Day 2). Finally, female respondents were more likely to comply with the return-entry orders than males respondents, and individuals of lower education levels were more likely to comply with return-entry orders than individuals of higher education levels.