Evacuating Yourself and Your Family

Evacuations are more common than many people realize. Fires and floods cause evacuations most frequently across the U.S. and almost every year, people along coastlines evacuate as hurricanes approach. In addition, hundreds of times a year, transportation and industrial accidents release harmful substances, forcing many people to leave their homes.

In some circumstances, local officials decide that the hazards are serious and require mandatory evacuations. In others, evacuations are advised or households decide to evacuate to avoid situations they believe are potentially dangerous. When community evacuations become necessary local officials provide information to the public through the media. In some circumstances, other warning methods, such as the Guilford Emergency Alert, Notification, and Information System (GEANI) will be used. It is important that Guilford County residents register for the GEANI system to ensure residents receive notification.

The amount of time you have to leave will depend on the hazard. If the event is a weather condition, such as a hurricane, you might have a day or two to get ready. However, many disasters allow no time for people to gather even the most basic necessities, which is why planning ahead is essential.

Plan how you will assemble your family and supplies and anticipate where you will go for different situations. Choose several destinations in different directions so you have options in an emergency and know the evacuation routes to get to those destinations.

  • Learn the types of disasters that are likely in your community and the local emergency, evacuation, and shelter plans for each specific disaster.
  • Plan how you will leave and where you will go if you are advised to evacuate.
    • Identify several places you could go in an emergency such as a friend’s home in another town or a motel. Choose destinations in different directions so that you have options during an emergency.
    • If needed, identify a place to stay that will accept pets. Most public shelters allow only service animals.
    • Be familiar with alternate routes and other means of transportation out of your area.
    • Always follow the instructions of local officials and remember that your evacuation route may be on foot depending on the type of disaster.
  • Develop a family/household communication and re-unification plan so that you can maintain contact and take the best actions for each of you and re-unite if you are separated.
    • Plan places where your family will meet, both within and outside of your immediate neighborhood. Use the Family Emergency Plan to decide these locations before a disaster.
  • Assemble supplies that are ready for evacuation, both a “go-bag” you can carry when you evacuate on foot or public transportation and supplies for traveling by longer distances if you have a personal vehicle. 
  • If you have a car:
    • Keep a full tank of gas in it if an evacuation seems likely. Keep a half tank of gas in it at all times in case of an unexpected need to evacuate.
    • Gas stations may be closed during emergencies and unable to pump gas during power outages. Plan to take one car per family to reduce congestion and delay.
    • Make sure you have a portable emergency kit in the car.
  • If you do not have a car, plan how you will leave if you have to. Make arrangements with family, friends or your local government.
  • Listen to a battery-powered radio and follow local evacuation instructions.
  • Take your emergency supply kit.
  • Leave early enough to avoid being trapped by severe weather.
  • Take your pets with you, but understand that only service animals may be permitted in public shelters. Plan how you will care for your pets in an emergency now.
  • If time allows:
    • Call or email the out-of-state contact in your family communications plan. Tell them where you are going.
    • Secure your home by closing and locking doors and windows.
    • Unplug electrical equipment such as radios, televisions and small appliances. Leave freezers and refrigerators plugged in unless there is a risk of flooding. If there is damage to your home and you are instructed to do so, shut off water, gas and electricity before leaving.
    • Leave a note telling others when you left and where you are going.
    • Wear sturdy shoes and clothing that provides some protection such as long pants, long-sleeved shirts and a hat.
    • Check with neighbors who may need a ride.
  • Follow recommended evacuation routes. Do not take shortcuts; they may be blocked.
  • Be alert for road hazards such as washed-out roads or bridges and downed power lines. Do not drive into flooded areas.

If you evacuated for the storm, check with local officials both where you’re staying and back home before you travel.

  • Residents returning to disaster-affected areas after significant events should expect and prepare for disruptions to daily activities, and remember that returning home before storm debris is cleared is dangerous.

  • Let friends and family know before you leave and when you arrive.

  • Charge devices and consider getting back-up batteries in case power-outages continue.

  • Fill up your gas tank and consider downloading a fuel app to check for outages along your route.

  • Bring supplies such as water and non-perishable food for the car ride.

  • Avoid downed power or utility lines; they may be live with deadly voltage. 

  • Stay away and report them immediately to your power or utility company.

  • Only use generators away from your home and NEVER run a generator inside a home or garage, or connect it to your home’s electrical system.

In some instances going to an emergency shelter may be your family’s best option to seek shelter and meet your immediate needs. Shelters are free and open to everyone. In the event an emergency or disaster displaces residents in Guilford County, an emergency shelter will be opened and staffed by the Guilford County Department of Health and Human Services in conjunction with the American Red Cross. 

The Red Cross encourages anyone coming to an emergency shelter to bring the following items for each member of their family:

  • Prescription and emergency medications
  • Extra clothing
  • Pillows
  • Blankets
  • Hygiene supplies
  • Important documents
  • Other comfort items.

It’s also important to bring special items for children, such as diapers, formula and toys, and other items for family members who have unique needs such as medications, oxygen, walker, etc.

The following items are not allowed in any shelter:

  • Illegal drugs
  • Alcohol
  • Weapons

Service animals only.

To learn if and where an emergency shelter is open, visit the American Red Cross website, download the ReadyNC app, tune in to local media outlets, or dial 2-1-1.