How to Create an Evacuation Plan


In an emergency, every second counts and a coherent evacuation plan
minimizes confusion, chaos and fear. Cities located in areas where
hurricanes, earthquakes, floods and wildfires are likely have contingency
plans in place to cope with these serious incidents. Urban areas
are also developing scenarios in the event of a terrorist attack, with
coordinated efforts between police, emergency personnel, transit and
local authorities. Make sure your community has a solid plan in place.

General readiness

  • Read 464 Formulate a Family Emergency Plan and get your own family prepared.

  • Browse the Federal Emergency Management Agency's Web site ( FEMA details how to prepare for virtually every type of natural disaster and specific actions to take in the wake of one, such as how to treat contaminated water. has information about the appropriate response to specific hazards, including biological, chemical, radioactive and nuclear threats.

  • Get disaster-preparedness training with the American Red Cross ( on such topics as basic first aid and what to do if a medical response is delayed. Pilot programs are underway to give teachers basic first aid training as well as train health care workers on proper decontamination procedures in case of a biological warfare (such as anthrax or saran) attack.

In your neighborhood

  • Keep your list of residents current with phone numbers, e-mail addresses and skills that would be useful in an emergency (see 389 Set Up a Neighborhood Watch).

  • Create a neighborhood emergency plan. Discuss the following:

  • Make sure you have a good map and are familiar with evacuation routes. Plan a backup route in case roads are blocked off.

Tips & Warnings

  • Update the evacuation plan periodically, especially when circumstances warrant it, such as major road construction projects that would directly affect evacuation routes.
  • Make sure your child's school has a sound evacuation plan in place. See 375 Improve Your Child's School.
  • Read 223 Prepare Your Business for the Unthinkable.
  • FEMA offers a guide to citizen preparedness in the event of earthquakes, heat waves, fires, floods, hurricanes, mudslides, thunderstorms, tornadoes, tsunamis, volcanoes, winter storms and severe cold. See 105 Prepare Your Home for Nature's Worst and 465 Prepare for an Act of God.
  • and the American Red Cross have a wealth of additional information.
  • If advised to evacuate, do so immediately. Be aware that pets are not allowed in shelters.
  • When evacuating, stay on main roads that are likely to be covered by firefighters and other emergency personnel.

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