Family evacuation plan

Habitat Ready: Disaster preparedness for homeowners

An evacuation is the immediate and urgent movement away from a threat or hazard. Evacuations are more common than people realize and may be optional or mandatory. Disasters often force people to leave their homes, neighborhoods, cities and sometimes even states on short notice.

Because you might not have much time to evacuate when a disaster strikes, it is important to have a plan in place to get your family out of danger quickly and efficiently. The family evacuation plan should include the following.

Additional considerations for COVID-19

  • Unless you live in a mandatory evacuation zone, plan to shelter-in-place in your home, if it is safe to do so.
  • If you live in a mandatory evacuation zone, plan with friends or family to shelter with them where you will be safer and more comfortable.
  • Only evacuate to shelters if you are unable to shelter at home or with family or friends. Know your evacuation zone! Note that your regular shelter may not be open due to COVID-19. Check with local authorities for the latest information about public shelters, evacuation procedures and routes.
  • If you must go to a disaster shelter, follow CDC recommendations for staying safe and healthy in a public disaster shelter during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Before an evacuation

  • Determine what threats could cause you to evacuate.
  • Make sure your disaster supply kit is stocked.
  • Have a family communications plan in place in case you get separated during the evacuation.
  • Include your pets in your family evacuation plan.
  • Learn about your community’s warning system and how evacuation information will be distributed (text messages, sirens, etc.).
  • Pick a location where your family will meet outside of your home and neighborhood.
  • In case you have to evacuate your city, choose several destinations in different directions so you have options.
  • Identify alternative evacuation routes.
  • Keep at least a half-tank of gas in your car at all times in case you have to evacuate on short notice. If an evacuation seems likely, keep a full tank of gas.
  • If you do not have a car, plan how you will leave if you have to. Make arrangements with friends, family members, neighbors or your local government.
  • Have enough cash to pay one week’s expenses in case banks and ATMs are not accessible.
  • Hold a family meeting to communicate your plan.

During an evacuation

  • Leave early, follow recommended evacuation routes, and stay together if possible.
  • Listen to a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration weather radio or TV for the latest evacuation information.
  • Be alert for road hazards, such as flooding, washed-out roads and bridges, and downed power lines.
  • Take your disaster supply kit with you.
  • Take your pets with you (See Disaster Preparedness Series: Preparing Pets for Disasters).
  • Secure your home, close and lock all doors and windows, and inform your neighbors of your evacuation plans.
  • If you have time, consider doing the following:
    • Inform your out-of-town contact from your family preparedness plan where you are going.
    • Unplug electrical equipment but leave freezers and refrigerators on, unless there is a risk of flooding.
    • Check with friends, family members and neighbors who may need assistance.

After an evacuation

  • Continue listening to a NOAA weather radio or TV for the latest evacuation information.
  • Do not return home until authorities declare it is safe.

Additional resources

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