Evacuation Procedures

Ordering an evacuation of all or part of an emergency area is a very serious step and requires detailed planning. In BC, the Emergency Program Act (1993) permits the head of a local authority to declare a state of local emergency, which allows the local authority to order an evacuation should it be absolutely necessary. There are several other statutes (Fire Services Act, Forest Act, Health Act, Environment Emergency Act, and the Mines Act) that can be used to order an evacuation.

Evacuation Process

Stage 1—Evacuation Alert

Authorities will alert the population that is at risk of the potential for evacuation because of the danger of possible loss of life and that they should be prepared to evacuate the area. This warning will be transmitted by:

  • door-to-door campaign with pamphlets delivered
  • radio and/or television broadcast
  • sirens and mobile public address announcements
  • telephone calls
  • electronic media (Internet/social media)

Note: even at this stage, plans will be in place to move handicapped persons, vacationers, and voluntary evacuees.

Stage 2—Evacuation Order

Leave the area now! All persons in the affected area will be ordered to leave the area. The police will enforce the evacuation order.

Stage 3—Rescind

An evacuation order or alert is rescinded when it is determined to be safe for residents to return home. An evacuation order may be reinstated if a threat returns.

Reception Centres

Reception centres are sites (staffed by Emergency Support Services volunteers) where evacuees may be received during a disaster. They may be a facility such as a recreation centre, community centre, church hall, or school—it depends on what is available in the community or what is needed.

Reception centres should be flexible for multi-purpose use. Space may be used as a gathering and information centre, a staging site for volunteer disaster relief workers, a site where insurance adjusters can operate, an emergency day care centre, etc.

Reception centres are set up in order to provide for essential needs of people affected by a disaster.

Shelter in Place

In some circumstances—like where evacuees would have to travel through a plume of hazardous gases—it may be safer for people to take shelter in their homes, schools, or places of work.

If you are advised to shelter in place, please follow these instructions:

  • Get inside as quickly as possible.
  • Turn off all heating, ventilation, and air conditioning systems. Close vents.
  • Close all doors, windows, fireplace flues, vents, and other openings. If there are any gaps in the weather stripping, use duct tape, plastic wrap, and/or aluminum foil to seal the leaks.
  • Close drapes, curtains, and shades. Stay away from external windows.
  • Use stairwells instead of elevators wherever possible.
  • Turn on the radio or television for information. You will be advised what the hazardous material is and what the signs and symptoms of overexposure are.
  • Only use telephones if you need immediate emergency assistance. You will be directed how to seek medical help outside the evacuation area.