Vehicle relocation alerts pre-flooding


Pre-flooding alert systems to manage vehicle evacuation ahead of emergency flooding situations. 

Benefits & Problems Addressed

Loss prevention due to flooding: Moving vehicles to higher ground prevents damage and insurance losses due to flooding and storm surge in low-lying areas. In 2012, Hurricane Sandy claimed 230,000 vehicles, mostly in New York City.

Safety: Alerts not only move cars, but people who can move out of harm's way, especially in vulnerable buildings, in tunnels or bridge crossings.

Alerts: These systems alert everyone, not only vehicle owners, that severe flooding is possible. This can help building owners & managers, delivery services, transportation companies and local government offices. 

Tips & Techniques

Getting started: Vehicle relocation alerts are most effective for parking lots and facilities prone to repeat and severe flooding, in particular underground parking and areas with corrosive salt water surge. Cities & towns will need to secure emergency parking spaces on higher ground ahead of time. Start small with a program for public fleets and susceptible building owners. Work with insurance companies for their insights on developing an effective program for loss prevention, including lower rates for program participants. 

Mapping: Because vehicle relocation programs are predictive, start with maps of vulnerable areas, in particular storm surge. Conduct surveys & interviews in areas previously affected for first-person accounts of storm surge.

Partners: Drivers & residents in affected areas, emergency managers, public works, transit agencies, building and parking lot owners, parking mobile app companies, insurance companies, tow truck companies, owners of potential lots in areas on higher elevations

Designate Emergency Flood Parking areas: The first step is to estimate how many vehicles would likely be relocated in order to secure the right amount of space. This can be areas with large swaths of asphalt or flat plains (airports, unused streets, malls) that will be closed anyway in an emergency. Determine which vehicles get priority placement (e.g. post-disaster response vehicles at first-out spaces). Carefully craft leases, responsibility, and personnel needs. Sign up vehicle owners (and charge a fee accordingly depending on the cost of leasing emergency parking). 

Notification System: Cell phone, email, and radio/TV alerts are common, though signage can also be important given the speed of storms and the highly localized nature of flooding. Target drivers at highest risk through parking permits or in cooperation with building managers who need to clear underground parking. 

Use existing smart sensor networks: As smart city technology grows, determine if there are ways to piggyback onto existing sensor and data networks (e.g. smart streetlights).  Establish data streams/analysis to determine (1) where to deploy tow trucks in areas with a high number of on-street vehicles, (2) a network of evacuation routes to lessen congestion, (3) how to alert drivers of the safest route to their parking area, for example through a mapping & navigation app.

Hot Buttons: Congestion as multiple people try to evacuate via multiple modes, sign clutter,  towing cars.


Image credit: Timothy Krause/Flickr