Evacuation Procedures

Evacuation of a section of a community constitutes a major undertaking. People have to be alerted, mobilized, transported, and sheltered until the incident is over and it is safe for them to return to their homes or place of employment. Evacuation should not be undertaken without serious planning as to the event.

Evacuation should be considered whenever any of the following conditions exists:

  • A building is on fire or a hazardous material is released inside of a building.
  • Explosives or reactive materials are involved and can detonate or explode, producing flying glass or causing structural collapse.
  • There are leaks involving toxics that cannot be controlled and are expected to continue to leak.
  • The Incident Commander (IC) determines that a leak cannot be controlled by the available emergency response personnel and civilians are therefore at risk.

Evacuation Steps

  1. The following steps should be implemented if evacuation is determined to be necessary:
    1. The general public should be alerted to the situation. The Incident Commander should appoint (or take on the role) of Public Information Officer (PIO). PIOs are used in most instances for contacting media and informing them of the need to interrupt regular broadcasting with an emergency message. The steps for alerting the public are as follows:
    2. An emergency incident is declared.
    3. Emergency response personnel make direct calls to residents in the area.
    4. The Emergency Broadcast System is activated.
    5. Local radio stations are contacted to broadcast the message.
    6. Cable TV broadcasts the emergency message.
    7. Residents are alerted to either evacuate or protect-in-place.
  2. Transportation should be arranged to take individuals to a safe location. For available transportation resources, see the Emergency Equipment page.
  3. A Relocation center should be established, bearing in mind the number of people being evacuated and the anticipated duration of the evacuation. The following should be implemented:
    1. Needed relocation center(s) should be determined and the emergency contact at that facility should be notified to prepare for the arriving people.
    2. An administrator (or supervisor) should be appointed to oversee activities at the Relocation Center (i.e. arranging bedding, food, etc.). This person should be the primary contact for emergency response personnel to communicate with the relocated individuals.
  4. Ensure that someone is available to inform the general public of the progress that is being made toward eliminating the problem. This person should also be available to answer any questions that these people may have.

Evacuation Routes & Traffic Re-Direction

The following procedure should be used for determining the routes best suited for evacuating people and re-directing traffic away from the incident scene:

  1. Use the Initial Isolation and Protective Action Distances section (the green section) of the 2000 North American Emergency Response Guidebook to calculate the isolation area for protective action.
  2. Examine the applicable county map and plot the release protective action distance based upon the chemical(s) involved and the direction of the wind.
  3. Determine the closest traffic-level-accommodating road that will redirect traffic upwind of the release area.
  4. Notify law enforcement officials to barricade roads and re-direct traffic along the determined route. (NOTE: This will also give an added measure of control of emergency response vehicles entering and exiting the incident scene.)
  5. Have law enforcement officials barricade off (at a safe distance) any roads that may run directly along the incident area security perimeter that are downwind of the incident release.


In some instances, evacuation is not the most feasible alternative. The following types of buildings should be considered for protection-in-place measures: If the Incident Commander (IC) determines that protection-in-place is the most plausible alternative. The following links should be selected used to make contact with the specific facility.

Protection-In-Place Use

Protection-In-Place is most likely justified when one of the following scenarios is present:

  • The hazardous material has been totally released from its container and is dissipating on the ground or in the air.
  • The released materials forms a migrating plume pattern (i.e. a vapor cloud that will quickly disperse such as one coming from a non-fixed, continuous point source)
  • A fast-moving toxic vapor cloud that will quickly overrun exposed people is present
  • Short-duration solid or liquid leaks are present
  • Migrating vapor clouds of known low toxicity and quantity are occurring
  • Leaks have occurred that can quickly be controlled at their source

More Information

Visit the Protection-In-Place page for more information