The study reveals that emergency planners in coastal cities such as Shanghai and New York City are facing increasing pressure to protect elderly citizens from the devastating impact of coastal flooding caused by storms and cyclones. The analysis shows that there are two distinct systems of emergency operation in these cities, leading to significant differences in evacuating elderly people to safety. The experts recommend building more neighborhood shelters to reduce the time taken to evacuate vulnerable people in flood-threatened areas to safety. This blueprint for efficient evacuation planning could be used in similar flood-threatened cities around the globe, such as Mumbai, Bangkok, Jakarta, Ho Chi Minh City, Miami, and Tokyo.

The differences in evacuation patterns for elderly residents in Shanghai and New York City highlight the value of risk-informed, strategic evacuation planning for storm flooding. The travel times for New York City evacuation neighborhoods are significantly less than 20 minutes, while each trip of flood evacuations can take up to 3-4 hours in Shanghai. This is due to underserved vulnerable neighborhoods lacking shelters in close proximity. The uneven distribution of vulnerable people together with centralization of shelters leaves exposed neighborhoods underserved in extreme flood conditions. This calls for a more strategic approach to evacuation planning that takes into account the specific needs of different populations in coastal cities.

The research emphasizes the urgent need for coastal cities to strengthen their emergency management processes in response to the increasing frequency and devastation of coastal flooding events. As climate-induced sea level rise, changes in storm characteristics, growing population and urbanization, and human-induced subsidence contribute to major impacts in low-lying coastal areas worldwide, it is imperative that emergency planners consider the effects of climate change on evacuation planning. The recent coastal flood catastrophes in cities like Shanghai, New Orleans, New York City, and Macau illustrate the vulnerability of coastal cities to storm surge flooding, both in developing and developed countries.

In the 136 largest coastal cities, the total population exposed to 100-year coastal floods is estimated to grow more than threefold by the 2070s. Economic damage from coastal flooding is also projected to increase significantly in the coming years. Without action, the expected number of people exposed to coastal flooding annually in Europe alone could reach 3.65 million by 2100. These projections underscore the urgent need for comprehensive and proactive measures to mitigate the impact of coastal flooding on vulnerable populations, including the elderly.

The findings of the study highlight the critical importance of efficient evacuation planning for protecting elderly citizens from the devastating impact of coastal flooding. By implementing strategic evacuation measures that take into account the specific vulnerabilities of different populations, coastal cities can better prepare for the increasing threat of storm-induced flooding. It is essential for emergency planners to prioritize the construction of neighborhood shelters and to consider the effects of climate change on evacuation planning to ensure the safety and well-being of vulnerable populations in the face of coastal flooding.


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