Ending Evacuations

August 1991 (VOL. 9, NO. 2)

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There is little research describing the process by which organizations decide to issue the \\"all-clear\\" to terminate an evacuation and of the process by which evacuated families decide to return to their homes. These processes are inherently more problematic in evacuations triggered by chemical or radioactive agents than is usually the case in evacuations occasioned by natural disasters. This paper presents some examples of toxic chemical evacuations as background for an examination of the process of terminating evacuations. The \\"all-clear\\" message and the pre-disaster warning message are taken as analogous, as are the decisions to evacuate and to return. Variables that research has shown explain warning and evacuation behavior are evaluated in relation to the all-clear and return. Ending evacuations where toxic agents are concerned are more problematic because there is greater conflict which in turn lessens the credibility of all-clear messages. Both the sources of these differences and their consequences are explored.