Disaster Preparedness: Evacuation Planning Guide
An order to evacuate could come at any moment. By planning ahead individuals can evacuate quickly, calmly and safely without sacrificing important documents or family mementos.
Knowing in advance what you should do, what you should take, and where you should go can mean the difference between a smooth evacuation or panic or worse. Your goal should be to spend as little time as possible collecting possessions following an evacuation order.
Depending on the nature and location of the disaster/emergency, there may be a sufficient amount of time for Law Enforcement to alert residents of the need to prepare to evacuate. However, this may not always be the case, such as an emergency involving wildland fire and strong winds. Advance preparation is important.
Evacuation orders will be accomplished primarily with the use of loudspeakers, door-to-door contacts, radio alerts, and automated phone calls from the Marin Emergency Automated Notification System or MEANS (formerly known as TENS.) A MEANS call would inform answerers of the need to prepare to evacuate, or to actually evacuate. You may hear another town's sirens. A continuous wailing of a city's emergency sirens does NOT mean that you should evacuate. It DOES mean that you should be PREPARED to evacuate. Immediately tune your radio to KCBS 740 AM, KGO 810 AM, or public television to listen for instructions.
The goal will be to safely move the affected population AWAY from the disaster site or danger zone to designated emergency shelter locations until the disaster is under control and it is safe to return.
As the emergency unfolds, the City Public Information Officer in conjunction with the American Red Cross will prepare and issue a statement to the local media and Emergency Broadcast System, providing precise information about the location of the disaster, evacuation routes, and temporary shelters.
Pre-Planning for Evacuation
To be prepared for an evacuation, do the following things NOW:
- Build a Disaster Supplies Kit (or Evacuation Supplies Kit) that can be taken with you easily and quickly. Most of these things you have around the house, but in an evacuation emergency you will not have time to run around gathering them. Store this outside, in a protected yet easily accessibly location. Basic Items include:
- Prescription medicines and basic first aid supplies
- Money (cash, credit or ATM cards, checkbook)
- Financial records and key documents. An account summary sheet listing your account numbers and institutions for insurance, medical, banking and investment accounts. Many original documents (birth records, marriage certificates, etc.) should be kept in a safe deposit box away from your house
- A copy of your written Family Disaster Plan (see item 2, below)
- A copy of a written, prioritized "Grab List" of irreplaceable possessions that you will take if you have time (note the item and where it is located in your house to save time)
- Safe deposit keys, computer backup media, personal phone lists
- Basic personal hygiene items for all family members (washing, shaving, dental, eye-care, sanitary)
- Extra eye glasses
- Special items for infants, elderly or disabled family members
- Flashlight, battery operated radio and extra batteries
- Safety goggles, cotton gloves and a hand towel for each family member (to protect against smoke and heat in the case of a large fire)
- One change of clothes for all family members
- One blanket or sleeping bag per person
- Pet leash and/or carrying box and small amount of pet food
- Extra cell phone charger
Note: It is a good idea to have a larger Disaster Supplies Kit than described above which would include food and water in case you find yourself in a "shelter in place" disaster (severe winter storm, earthquake…) However, the Evacuation Kit subset of your larger Disaster Supplies Kit should be compact (kept in a medium sized duffle bag or backpack) and quickly accessible.
- Create a Family Disaster Plan and review it yearly with all members of your family. This plan should be simple, written, and include:
- A quick and short EVACUATION ACTION CHECKLIST (click here for a printer-friendly PDF form)
- Two locations to meet - one immediately outside your home in case of a sudden emergency like a house fire, and one outside of your neighborhood if you can't return home.
- An out-of-state family member or friend to be your "family contact." All family members should try to call this person after a disaster to tell them where they are. Everyone must know this contact's phone number (keep it on a slip of paper in your purse or wallet.)
- A plan for animal care if you have pets. Animals may not be allowed inside of emergency shelters due to health regards. The Marin County Humane Society will try to assist, but this may not be feasible in some cases.
- An understanding of the 2-3 most direct routes out of your section of town.
- An understanding of any steps, lanes or paths that might shorten your route if forced to flee on foot.
- An understanding of the evacuation procedures of your child's school. If you have children in school in an affected area, do not try to pick them up, as the school will have their own evacuation procedures, and it will include a special pickup process.
When an Evacuation Order is given, Public Safety officers will direct residents away from the disaster to the nearest shelter facility via the safest rout. Given Fairfax's dense hillside neighborhoods and narrow streets, it is a safe assumption that hilltop and canyon residents will be directed down one or more (if accessible) streets to Bolinas Road or Sir Francis Drake Boulevard. In some cases, however, residents may be directed UP and OVER hills to safer routes out. Heed their directions.
- Depending on the scope of the disaster, Police may choose to designate ALL lanes of certain roads to ONE WAY traffic.
- If confronted by approaching emergency vehicles, get off the road and out of the way.
- You may have to leave your car and evacuate on foot - if so, do not leave your car where it will block the road or hinder emergency vehicles. Stay on the roads unless there is a KNOWN shortcut via Fairfax's system of steps, lanes and paths that will get you out of harm's way more quickly.
If you have any questions regarding evacuation planning, please contact the Fairfax Police Department for further guidance.