Emergency Preparedness

Evacuation Plans

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, also are used. Additionally, there may be circumstances under which you and your family feel threatened or endangered and you need to leave your home, school, or workplace to avoid these situations.

The amount of time you have to leave will depend on the hazard. If the event is a weather condition, such as a hurricane that can be monitored, 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, which is why planning ahead, is essential.

Evacuation: More Common than You Realize

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. Almost every year, people along the Gulf and Atlantic coasts evacuate in the face of approaching hurricanes.

Ask local authorities about emergency evacuation routes and see if maps may are available with evacuation routes marked.

Watch or Warning?

Hurricane Watch: An announcement that you could experience hurricane conditions within 36 hours. You should prepare your evacuation plan.

Hurricane Warning: An announcement that you could experience winds of 74 mph or higher within 24 hours. You should secure your property and plan your evacuation.

Before a Hurricane

To prepare for a hurricane, you should take the following measures:

  • Make plans to secure your property. Permanent storm shutters offer the best protection for windows. A second option is to board up windows with 5/8” marine plywood, cut to fit and ready to install. Tape does not prevent windows from breaking.
  • Install straps or additional clips to securely fasten your roof to the frame structure. This will reduce roof damage.
  • Be sure trees and shrubs around your home are well trimmed.
  • Clear loose and clogged rain gutters and downspouts.
  • Determine how and where to secure your boat.
  • Consider building a safe room.

During a Hurricane

If a hurricane is likely in your area, you should:

  • Listen to the radio or TV for information.
  • Secure your home, close storm shutters, and secure outdoor objects or bring them indoors.
  • Turn off utilities if instructed to do so. Otherwise, turn the refrigerator thermostat to its coldest setting and keep its doors closed.
  • Turn off propane tanks. Avoid using the phone, except for serious emergencies.
  • Moor your boat if time permits.
  • Ensure a supply of water for sanitary purposes such as cleaning and flushing toilets. Fill the bathtub and other large containers with water.

You should evacuate under the following conditions:

  • If you are directed by local authorities to do so. Be sure to follow their instructions.
  • If you live in a mobile home or temporary structure—such shelters are particularly hazardous during hurricanes no matter how well fastened to the ground.
  • If you live in a high-rise building—hurricane winds are stronger at higher elevations.
  • If you live on the coast, on a floodplain, near a river, or on an inland waterway.
  • If you feel you are in danger.

If you are unable to evacuate, go to your safe room. If you do not have one, follow these guidelines:

  • Stay indoors during the hurricane and away from windows and glass doors.
  • Close all interior doors—secure and brace external doors.
  • Keep curtains and blinds closed. Do not be fooled if there is a lull; it could be the eye of the storm – winds will pick up again.
  • Take refuge in a small interior room, closet, or hallway on the lowest level.
  • Lie on the floor under a table or another sturdy object.

Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Scale

Category 1

  • Sustained Winds: 74-95 MPH
  • Minimal Damage: Unanchored mobile homes, vegetation and signs
  • Storm Surge: 4-5 feet

Category 2

  • Sustained Winds: 96-110 MPH
  • Moderate Damage: All mobile homes, roofs, small crafts, flooding
  • Storm Surge: 6-8 feet

Category 3

  • Sustained Winds: 111-130 MPH
  • Extensive Damage: Small buildings, low-lying roads cut off
  • Storm Surge: 9-12 feet

Category 4

  • Sustained Winds: 131-155 MPH
  • Extreme Damage: Roofs destroyed, trees down, roads cut off, mobile homes destroyed, beach homes flooded
  • Storm Surge: 13-18 feet

Category 5

  • Sustained Winds: More than 155 MPH
  • Catastrophic Damage: Most buildings destroyed, vegetation destroyed, major roads cut off, homes flooded
  • Storm Surge: Greater than 18 feet


PDF icon Hurricane-Terms.pdfPDF icon Evacuation-Guidelines.pdfPDF icon DisasterSupplyKit-Checklist.pdf