Evacuation During a Chemical Emergency

If you are told to evacuate immediately, take your Disaster Supplies Kit. Pack only the bare essentials, such as medications, and leave your home quickly. Follow the route authorities recommend. Don't take shortcuts on the way to the shelter, they may be blocked or expose you to dangerous chemicals.
  • It is important to stay calm, listen carefully, and follow all instructions. Authorities will decide if evacuation is necessary, based primarily on the type and amount of chemical released and how long it is expected to affect an area. Other considerations are the length of time it should take to evacuate the area, weather conditions, and the time of day. Authorities will advise you of the safest steps to take for your particular situation.
  • If an evacuation order is issued, listen to your radio to make sure the evacuation order applies to you, and to understand if you are to evacuate immediately or if you have time to pack some essentials. Stay tuned to a radio or television for information on evacuation routes, temporary shelters, and procedures. Following the advice of local authorities is your safest choice.
  • Avoid using the telephone. Use your phone only in life-threatening emergencies, and then call the poison control center, EMS, 911, or the operator immediately. Telephone lines are frequently overwhelmed in disaster situations. They need to be clear for emergency calls to get through.
  • If you are told to evacuate, do so immediately. Local officials may call for evacuation in specific areas at greatest risk in your community. Following the advice of local authorities is your safest protection.
  • Take your Disaster Supplies Kit. These items may make you more comfortable while you are away from home.
  • Only if you have time, seal your house so contaminants cannot enter:
    • Shut off all vents.
    • Close fireplace dampers.
    • You don't need to turn off your refrigerator or freezer, but you should turn off all other appliances and lights as you leave.
    • Close and lock your windows and doors.
  • Move quickly and calmly. Leaving the area as quickly as possible will reduce your chance of exposure to hazardous materials. Staying calm and rational will help you move safely and avoid delays or accidents caused by irrational behavior.
  • Do not assume that a shelter will have everything you need. While shelters provide a safe place to stay and food, specialty items for infants and individuals on restricted diets may not be available. In most major chemical emergencies, shelters will provide only emergency items such as meals, cots, and blankets.
  • If you need a ride, ask a neighbor. If no neighbor is available to help you, listen to local radio or television stations for further instructions.
  • Check on neighbors to make sure they have been notified, and offer help to those with disabilities or other special needs. Elderly people and people with disabilities may require additional assistance, and people who care for them or who have large families may need assistance in emergency situations.
  • Take only one vehicle to the evacuation site. Traffic may be very heavy and parking at a shelter may be limited. Reduce further congestion and keep your family together by eliminating additional vehicles.
  • Close your car windows and air vents, and turn off the heater or air conditioner. Many chemicals can cause damage to breathing passages.
  • For your safety, follow the exact route you are told to take. Shortcuts may put you in the path of danger.