When Disaster Strikes, Where Do You Go? Plan Ahead for Evacuations

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Image of an evacuation route sign, and young people rushing down stairs.

September is National Disaster Preparedness Month—a time to get ready for disasters.

We would like to help you do that! This month as we’re breaking down some of the steps of preparing for, responding to and recovering from a disaster. If you have questions, or want to share your disaster planning experience, you can get in touch with us using your preferred mode of communication: phone, email, live chat, Tweet or Facebook comment.

Last week, we talked about disaster supplies. Now that you’re stocked up, we’ll answer an important question: Where should you go if disaster strikes?

There are three kinds of evacuations: building, local and regional.

Building evacuations are fairly straightforward. Say there’s a bomb threat or a fire in your building, your staff and clients should leave the facility on foot and meet at a rally point. If you’ve ever run a fire drill, you already have a rally point and escape routes through your building. Read more about building evacuations.

Local and regional evacuations are more complicated and require more planning. For example, what if a fire damages your building or the basement floods? You’ll need to take your young people to another location to stay for several days or weeks until repairs are made.

Or, what if brush fires threaten your town? Or a tornado wreaks havoc on your county? You’ll need to move youth and staff to a location that has not been affected by the disaster, typically someplace 50 to 100 miles away.

Planning for local and regional evacuations takes three steps:

  • Arrange a facility or facilities to which you can evacuate. This might be another facility that belongs to your organization, or it might be a church, community center, school, hotel or apartment complex whose managers have agreed to become your evacuation site. See NCFY’s template for an evacuation site agreement.
  • Figure out how you would get there. For a local evacuation, walking or public transit might work. For a regional evacuation, you’ll want to have enough vehicles to transport all your youth and staff. Learn more about emergency transportation.
  • Organize your supplies. Make sure every young person has a “Go-Bag” in which they keep all their important belongings. Also make sure your emergency supplies are fully stocked and portable (packed in duffel bags or backpacks). Learn more about Go-Bags and emergency supplies.

Read more about evacuation planning, including what to do if you house youth in scattered-site apartments or if your clients include teen parents and their children, in our disaster planning manual, “Ready for Anything.”

In our next installment in this series, we’ll talk about how to make a disaster response plan, your blueprint for what to do when a particular kind of emergency hits. In the meantime, visit us on Facebook or Twitter to tell us if we’ve missed any details you think people should know about evacuating a residential youth program.

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