To Stay or Go

The need to evacuate depends on many factors; proximity to the incident, severity of the incident, prevailing winds (in the case of a chemical spill), threat of landslides/mudslides, flooding, etc. Some disasters like hurricanes, flooding or wildfires are relatively slow to build and can give you time to evaluate your options. Other events like tornadoes, hazardous material spills or terrorist attacks develop quickly or without warning or predictability.

From time to time government authorities mandate evacuation, but more often than not you will be required to make that decision for yourself. The following scenarios will help you evaluate various treat levels and guide you through the review of specific information you have already gathered; information that will help you co-ordinate different plans of action.

Evacuation Scenarios

Imminent Threat (No Warning/ Sudden Warning) – Leave Home or Work

Example: A sudden event (fire or explosion) forces you out of your home or office building, but you are able to stay in the immediate neighborhood.

If an event forces you out of your home or office but doesn’t affect your neighborhood, your initial evacuation will likely be to the street.

If your office is affected; see “Evacuation from Work” below

If you cannot return to your home, your immediate concerns will be finding temporary shelter, notifying family members of the incident and meeting up with them

Use the information from your Family Communication Plan (Month 5) to identify neighbors, friends or family living nearby who have agreed to extend emergency lodging assistance. If extenuating circumstances prevent them from helping, you can seek out your local chapter of the American Red Cross.

Use the information from your Phone Tree (Month 5) to communicate with your family.

Review your Meeting Places (Month 5) to determine where everyone has agreed to meet.

You can remain calm in a situation like this because you have a Plan to activate. The more familiar everyone is with the information you are generating the more confident they will be, so review it regularly.

Short to Mid-Term Threat (Limited Warning) – Stay in the Community

Example: A tornado strikes with minimal warning (a few minutes) and you stay in your community.

Activate your Communications Plan (Month 5) as in the previous scenario.

Review your pre-arranged primary Meeting Place (Month 5). Depending on the emergency situation, you may have to resort to a “Plan B” meeting place.

Make sure everyone understands how they are going to get to each location (mode of transportation as well as the direction they will take).

REMINDER: Earlier it was suggested you drive to your meeting places a few times if you own a car. Since you may not have access to a car during an emergency, consider walking to each location at least once. Your perspective and observations from the comfort of a car are different than when you are on foot. Notice landmarks and how they might guide you if streetlights or roads are out. While landmarks are easy reference points, make a mental note of their relationship to other things because landmarks may become unrecognizable after a disaster.

Short-Term Threat (Some Warning) – Leave the Community

Example: A major hurricane, with some advance warning, forces you to leave your community.

Activate your Communications Plan (Month 5) as in the previous scenarios.

After your family has met up successfully, head for a location where you will be provided shelter for the duration of the threat.

As a general rule, the earlier you evacuate the better. If your community has established evacuation routes (check evacuation routes by state under the “Evaluate” tab at Disaster Ready, become familiar with them just as you did with the various routes to your meeting places.

Using your best judgment, choose your evacuation route(s) and clearly mark each one on a map with different-colored highlights. But don’t limit your exit options to the planned routes. Because published routes could be grid-locked, consider alternate courses (the so-called “blue highways”). These secondary roads are marked in blue on maps to distinguish them from freeways and interstates.

Keep one map in the car away from the bleaching effects of the sun and another one in your Personal Preaction™ Plan Notebook.

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