Evacuation Procedures

Ordering an evacuation of all or part of an emergency area is a very serious step and requires detailed planning. In British Columbia, the Emergency Program Act (1993) permits the head of a local authority to declare a State of Local Emergency, and that 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 at risk of the potential for evacuation because of the danger of possible loss of life and 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An evacuation order or alert is rescinded when it is determined to be safe for residents to return home.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 [ESS] 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 multipurpose use. Space may be required for use 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.


In some circumstances - for example, 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, 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.
  • Use telephones only if you need immediate emergency assistance. You will be directed how to seek medical help outside the evacuation area.