Disaster Management Manual
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4.4.2 Evacuation Phases

Disaster related evacuations generally occur in multiple phases which may include readiness/preparation, activation/notification, evacuation/displacement, and re-entry/recovery.

  • Readiness/Preparation: This phase includes the monitoring for, and identification of, a threat or hazard that could potentially require an evacuation order. When information becomes available that a significant event may occur, pre-established evacuation plans should be reviewed for applicability and accuracy. This phase could occur days or hours before an event, or simultaneously with the activation/notification phase immediately following a no-notice event. Permanently installing evacuation route signs provides residents and visitors an opportunity to become familiar with evacuation routes prior to the occurrence of a disaster (Figure

Figure Permanently mounted tsunami evacuation route sign

  • Activation/Notification: The activation/notification phase of an evacuation should be initiated as early as possible following the confirmation of an imminent threat. This will likely take place concurrently with other phases during no-notice or short-notice events like earthquakes or terrorist attacks. This phase includes activating the entities responsible for executing the evacuation plan and coordinating with impacted jurisdictions and responders.
    The decision to declare a voluntary, recommended, or mandatory evacuation should be made by the jurisdictional authority. During this phase, the public will receive initial information that an evacuation may be ordered or has already been initiated. Public officials from the impacted jurisdictions will make coordinated decisions related to protective actions and priorities and continue to disseminate clear evacuation messaging to the public as the situation evolves.
  • Evacuation/Displacement: This phase begins when a threat becomes imminent and requires evacuation. Depending on the type and magnitude of the event, mobilization may be necessary both outside and within the impact area as part of the response.
    If evacuees must leave their home jurisdiction, officials should communicate with the receiving jurisdictions to coordinate the numbers and types of evacuees along with the potential duration of the evacuation. During short duration evacuation operations, mass care may consist of commodity distribution or the establishment of respite sites for evacuees to obtain food (Figure, water, fuel, and information during evacuations that last hours instead of days.

Figure American Red Cross distributes food to evacuees following a disaster

  • Re-Entry/Recovery: This phase involves the coordinated return of evacuees to a community once the threat or hazard dissipates and it is determined to be safe to reenter the community. Public officials will determine when communities may be permitted to return to their points of origin. Reentry operations may be conducted over several days, or even months, depending on the magnitude of damage to infrastructure during the event.
    Re-entry typically marks the transition to recovery activities. This phase may follow the reentry of first responders if the threat or hazard was significant enough to require first responders to evacuate or will begin once first responders have stabilized the area to a point where residents can return. 1



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