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What to Expect During an Evacuation

Evacuation Preparedness: The Importance of Being Ready

Disasters like floods, fires, earthquakes, and hurricanes can strike without warning, causing widespread destruction and harm. In these scenarios, being ready for evacuation can make all the difference for you and your loved ones. In this article, we’ll discuss some of the basics of evacuations, including what to expect once you have been evacuated.

Understanding Evacuation Terms

When it comes to evacuations, it’s crucial to understand the terms that may be used by local authorities to ensure you know what to do when the time comes. Here are some of the terms you may hear:

  • Evacuation Alert: This means that local authorities are considering issuing an evacuation order. You should get ready to leave on short notice.
  • Evacuation Order: This means that local authorities have decided to evacuate your area. You should leave the area immediately in a calm and orderly fashion.
  • Tactical Evacuation: A tactical evacuation might be called for if there is a sudden threat that requires swift action. In these instances, evacuations are usually coordinated by local police or other agencies, and you are expected to leave with little to no notice.
  • Evacuation Rescinded: This means that the emergency has passed for the time being and it is safe to return home.


Having an Emergency Plan Evacuation Route Sign

When preparing for an evacuation, it is crucial to have an emergency plan ready. Your plan should outline what actions you will take during the evacuation, where you will go, and how you will stay in touch with your family and friends. Additionally, your plan should include a list of essential items and documents that you must bring with you during the evacuation (if it is safe to do so). To be fully prepared for an emergency, you should also have an emergency kit containing crucial supplies like food, water, and first-aid readily accessible.

For a free emergency plan template that includes information on Canada’s 9 most common natural hazards, click here.


Practicing Emergency and Evacuation Drills

Practicing emergency and evacuation drills can help to reduce anxiety and uncertainty during an emergency. If you have children, it’s especially important to practice these drills so they know what to do in case of an evacuation. During these drills, review your emergency plan, and ensure that everyone in your household knows what to do if an evacuation order is issued.


What to Do During an Evacuation

If you receive an evacuation order, it’s crucial to remain calm and follow the instructions of local authorities. Bring your emergency kit with you, and do not stop to pack additional items. Ensure that you don’t leave anyone behind, including pets. If it is safe to do so, check on your neighbors to ensure they are aware of the evacuation.

Make your way to a designated support location, which is most often inside schools and community centers. If you’re not sure where to go, ask a first responder, listen to the radio (while moving!), and check your local government’s emergency channels on social media from a smartphone. At the reception center, wait times can be high as volunteers process new arrivals, so be patient and dress for the weather if possible.


Resources Available at a Reception Center

At a reception center, emergency social service responders will assess your needs and complete forms to help you get essential items you may be missing. You can also receive updates and information on the emergency, referrals for food, clothing, and shelter, help finding and reuniting with family, and advice on what to do next. Emotions can run high, so be kind to yourself and others.

Red Cross members at a reception center for evacuations

Why Staying Behind Is Dangerous

While the idea of leaving your home in a hurry may seem daunting, it is important to keep in mind that your safety is the top priority during an evacuation. Your home can be rebuilt or repaired, but the same cannot be said for human life. Even if you feel the risk is worth it for yourself, remember that if responders need to come and get you, it may not be safe for them. 

Though even if you feel safe, or can’t see the hazard yet, it is best to evacuate when the order is given. According to a report from Australia’s Bushfire and Natural Hazards Cooperative Research Centre, there were 552 wild-fire related deaths in the country between 1956 and 2008. Of these, 31% occurred because people waited too long to evacuate, and another 26% were related to people staying behind to try and defend their properties from the advancing flames.


Other Considerations

In addition to the items in your emergency kit, there are a few other things you should consider bringing with you during an evacuation. These may include any medications you or your family members need, as well as important documents such as passports, birth certificates, and insurance policies. It is also a good idea to have cash on hand in case ATMs are inaccessible.

If you have pets, make sure to have a plan in place for their evacuation as well. Consider identifying pet-friendly hotels or shelters in advance, and make sure your pets have identification tags with up-to-date contact information.

During an evacuation, it is important to follow instructions from local authorities and first responders. If you have any questions or concerns, ask a first responder or emergency personnel for assistance. Stay calm and avoid panic, as this can lead to dangerous situations for both yourself and others.

Once you have safely evacuated, it is important to stay informed about the situation. Keep up to date with local news and government channels for updates on when it may be safe to return home. If you are unable to return home, seek assistance from emergency shelters or other support services.



When you have to leave your home due to an emergency, it’s natural to feel overwhelmed with fear, stress, and anxiety. However, it’s important to prioritize your mental health by talking to close friends or family or seeking professional help.

To alleviate some of the worries, you can take steps to prepare yourself before an evacuation. Having a plan in place and staying informed can help you feel more in control of the situation. It’s important to stay calm and focused on your safety during this time.

No matter where you live, it’s critical to be prepared for unexpected emergencies. Being aware of evacuation procedures, having a well-thought-out emergency plan, and keeping essential items handy can help ease uncertainty during such situations. Always prioritize your safety and take necessary precautions to stay safe.

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