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Evacuations are more common than many
people realize. Hundreds of times each year,
transportation and industrial accidents release harmful
substances, forcing thousands of people to leave their
homes. Fires and floods cause evacuations even more
frequently. And almost every year, people along the Gulf
and Atlantic coasts evacuate in the face of approaching
When community evacuations become
necessary, local officials provide information to the
public through the media. In some circumstances other
warning methods, such as sirens or telephone calls, are
also used. Government agencies, the American Red Cross,
Salvation Army, and other disaster relief organizations
provide emergency shelter and supplies. To be prepared
for an emergency, you should have enough water, food,
clothing and emergency supplies to last at least three
days. In a catastrophic emergency, you might need to be
self-sufficient for even longer.
The amount of time you have to evacuate
will depend on the disaster. If the event can be
monitored, like a hurricane, you might have a day or two
to get ready. However, many disasters allow no time for
people to gather even the most basic necessities. This
is why you should prepare now.
1. Ask your local emergency management office about
community evacuation plans. Learn evacuation routes. If
you do not own a car, make transportation arrangements
with friends or your local government.
2. Talk with your household about the possibility of
evacuation. Plan where you would go if you had to leave
the community. Determine how you would get there. In
your planning, consider different scales of evacuations.
In a hurricane, for example, entire counties would
evacuate, while much smaller area would be affected by a
3. Plan a place to meet your household in case you
are separated from one another in a disaster. Ask a
friend outside your town to be the “checkpoint ” so that
everyone in the household can call that person to say
they are safe.
4. Find out where children will be sent if schools
5. Assemble a disaster supplies kit. Include a
battery-powered radio, flashlight, extra batteries,
food, water and clothing.
6. Keep fuel in your car if an evacuation seems
likely. Gas stations may be closed during emergencies
and unable to pump gas during power
7. Know how to shut off your home ’s electricity, gas
and water supplies at main switches and valves. Have the
tools you would need to do this (usually adjustable pipe
What to do when you are told to
Listen to a battery-powered radio and follow local
instructions. If the danger is a chemical release and
you are instructed to evacuate immediately, gather your
household and go. Take one car per household when
evacuating. This will keep your household together and
reduce traffic congestion and delay. In other cases, you
may have time to follow these steps:
1. Gather water, food, clothing, emergency supplies,
and insurance and financial records.
2. Wear sturdy shoes and clothing that provides some
protection, such as long pants, long-sleeved shirts, and
3. Secure your home. Close and lock doors and
windows. Unplug appliances. If a hard freeze is likely
during your absence, take actions needed to prevent
damage to water pipes by freezing weather, such
• Turn off water main.
• Drain faucets.
• Turn off inside valves for external
faucets and open the outside faucets to
4. Turn off the main water valve and electricity, if
instructed to do so.
5. Let others know where you are going.
6. Leave early enough to avoid being trapped by
7. Follow recommended evacuation routes. Do not take
shortcuts. They may be blocked. Be alert for washed out
roads and bridges. Do not drive into flooded areas. Stay
away from downed power lines.
Disaster situations can be intense, stressful, and
confusing. Should an evacuation be necessary, local
authorities will do their best to notify the public, but
do not depend entirely on this.
Often, a disaster can strike with little or no
warning, providing local authorities scant time to issue
an evacuation order. Also, it is possible that you may
not hear of an evacuation order due to communications or
power failure or not listening to your battery-powered
radio. Local authorities and meteorologists could also
make mistakes, including underestimating an emergency or
disaster situation. In the absence of evacuation
instructions from local authorities, you should evacuate
if you feel you and your household are threatened or
endangered. Use predesignated evacuation routes and let
others know what you are doing and your