Oceanviewer Banner

Evacuating the Halifax Peninsula: Multidisciplinary Analysis and Training to Improve Evacuation from Coastal Floods

  • Headshot

    Kevin Quigley

This project will improve coastal city evacuation processes in response to tsunamis and extreme maritime weather, such as hurricanes and associated storm surges.

Hurricane Rita caused nine deaths after it slammed ashore near the Texas-Louisiana border in September 2005. Ironically, 28 people were killed in the mass evacuation before the storm. Poorly conceived and executed evacuation plans result in wide-ranging social and economic devastation. Despite this, most cities in Canada do not have detailed evacuation plans.

City evacuations are complex and highly uncertain undertakings. Evacuation decisions are informed by difficult risk trade-offs, and depend on the availability of transportation and shelter as well as the needs of facilities like hospitals, schools, daycare centres, prisons, and nursing homes. Evacuation decisions are often made with limited time and must adapt as events unfold.

This project will assemble a highly interdisciplinary and international team to improve coastal city evacuation processes in response to tsunamis and extreme maritime weather, such as hurricanes and associated storm surges. Closely partnered with emergency management professionals, the Halifax peninsula will be used as a test case to examine governance and coordination, evacuation psychology, traffic flow and plausible flood patterns. Halifax is an excellent test case because it exists on a hurricane path, it has critical infrastructure operated by different orders of government and by the private sector, and the peninsula has few exit points.

Since the launch of this project in 2016, the team has formed a partnership between Dalhousie's CIP Initiative and the NSCC's Applied Geomatics Research Group. To date, this partnership has produced five (5) flood projection maps for the Halifax peninsula. In the next phase of this project, these flood maps will be used by the DalTRAC Collaboratory to develop traffic simulation models and by Dr. Calvin Burns at the University of Strathclyde (UK) as discussion prompts for interviews with critical infrastructure owners and operators.


  • EMO Nova Scotia
  • Public Safety New Brunswick
  • The City of Halifax
  • MacEachen Institute for Public Policy and Governance
  • Critical Infrastructure Protection (CIP) Initiative
  • DalTRAC Collaboratory
  • Maritime Activity and Risk Investigation Network (MARIN)
  • Service Systems Research Group (SSRG)
  • Applied Geomatics Research Group (AGRG-NSCC)


  • Calvin Burns
  • Ahsan Habib
  • Ronald Pelot MEOPAR
  • John Quigley
  • Eleni Stroulia
  • Tim Webster


  • MD Jahedul Alam
  • Nazmul Arefin Khan
  • Santiago Deniz-Santana
  • Mahmudur Fatmi


  • Habib, A., & Alam, J.. 2017, Evacuating the Halifax Peninsula: A Dynamic Microsimulation Modelling Approach, TRB Conference,

This project will issue a publically available report that summarizes findings and recommendations for improvement. It will also develop a collaborative game that can be used to train emergency managers for different evacuation scenarios, focusing on interdependence, time constraint, unanticipated human reactions, judgement, cooperation and accountability. Experience can be difficult to obtain in the context of evacuations because they happen so rarely; the prototype will help to develop skills and judgement so emergency managers can be more aware of context and better prepared should an event occur.