Hurricane Evacuation and Shelter Planning

hurricane katrina radar

When there is a possibility of a storm getting close, keep your vehicle gas tank full.

If you live in an evacuation zone and are ordered to evacuate by state or local officials, get out as quickly as possible. A mandatory evacuation means that if you choose to stay, you are totally on your own and should not expect any rescue or emergency assistance. Realize that your evacuation zone may have a number but that number does not relate to the category of the storm. Evacuation zones are created based on vulnerability to surge and/or high wind.

Do not wait to evacuate, since that increases the risk of being stuck in traffic, or not being able to get out at all. Expect traffic congestion and much longer travel times than normal to reach your family’s destination.

While evacuating moves you out of the immediate storm surge or steady high wind threat area, realize that you may still encounter flooding or tornadoes wherever you go.

Minimize the distance you travel to reach a safe location; the farther you drive, the higher the likelihood of problems on the roads. It does not have to be hundreds of miles. It just needs to be far enough to get you out of the evacuation area. In some cases that may mean just driving northward within your county to get out of a storm surge zone, or driving a few miles to stay with a friend in a stronger home. Make sure they know you are coming! Arrange this at the start of the season.

hurricane Katrina
Satellite view of Hurricane Katrina after landfall

Do not get on the road without a planned route, or a place to go to. Know your local shelter locations and how to get to them. Before leaving, fill your vehicle with gas and get cash from the ATM. Have copies of all important legal documents for your home and property in case your home is destroyed.

Contact your local emergency management office to register or get information regarding anyone in your household who may require special assistance in order to evacuate.

Prepare a separate pet plan, because most public shelters do not accept pets.

Carry all prescription medicines and special medical items, such as eyeglasses and diapers.

If your evacuation plan includes a boat, trailer, or RV then leave early.

Prepare your home before leaving by boarding up doors and windows, securing or moving indoors all yard items, and turning off all utilities.

Stay tuned to News 5 and our radio partners or for advisories or specific instructions from local officials. Monitor your NOAA Weather Radio


hurricane destruction
Condos destroyed by Hurricane Ivan on Orange Beach.

Hurricane shelters are your last resort for safety while a storm is moving in. Shelters are for those who must leave their homes but don’t have the time or resources to find a comfortable alternative. Do not expect much to be provided for you beyond space and a restroom. They may be crowded and noisy. Shelters are simply to keep you safe until the storm passes. After the storm, shelters will begin closing. Not all shelters may be open for any given hurricane so listen to us on News 5 and or check your EMA office online or by phone. In extreme cases where shelters fill up, you may be turned away.


What to take to a shelter (courtesy of Baldwin County EMA)

Driver’s license or government-issued photo id
Change of clothing
Sleeping bags
Hygiene or sanitary products
Medications, prescription & over-the-counter drugs
Baby food/formula, diapers, wipes, teething gel, ointment

hurricane damage
Hurricane Ivan damage to boats in Pensacola.

Water in plastic containers – 3 day supply
Food & snacks, non-perishable – 3 day supply
Cell phone & charger
Flashlight & extra batteries
Battery-powered radio and/or digital TV & extra batteries
Headphones or ear buds for your TV or radio
First-aid kit
Entertainment (toys, books, games, etc.)
Cash, checkbook, credit cards
Patience and a positive attitude
Important Documents:
Social security card
Proof of residence (deed or lease)
Insurance policies
Birth certificate
Marriage certificate
Stocks, bonds, and other negotiable certificates
Wills, deeds, copies of recent tax returns

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