Shelters and Evacuations During a Disaster

Your local emergency managers may tell you to shelter in place or evacuate during a disaster.

Dana Robison from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) explains what it means to shelter in place, preparing yourself and family to evacuate and about what to expect at a shelter during a disaster in American Sign Language (ASL).

Additional information on evacuating during an emergency can be found on the "Evacuating Yourself and Your Family" page while other preparedness information and resources can be found in the Preparedness section. Information on emergency preparedness for individuals with disabilities or access/functional needs is on the ADA/FNSS page.


Hi, my name is Dana Robison, and I'm from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, also known as the CDC. I'm here today to talk about shelters and evacuation.

When a storm is on the way, local emergency officials may order you and your family to shelter-in-place, which means moving to a safe place inside the building where you are. They may also tell you to evacuate, which means to leave and find a safer building. It is important for safety reasons that you pay attention and not ignore the local emergency official's order. As local authorities learn more about the disaster, they will share updates with the public through local radio or TV and social media. They will always give you the best information they can to keep you and your loved ones as safe as possible.

When you are evacuating, only take the things you really need, such as your cell phone and chargers, medications and other medical supplies and equipment, personal identification like your passport or driver's license, and some cash. Also bring with you a list of all your medications, and keep it in a safe place like your wallet or purse. You should make sure that a trusted family member or friend has a backup copy of the medication list to share with health care providers on your behalf or in the event that you lose or misplace the list of medications you need.

If you know a neighbor who may have a disability or require mobility assistance, such as someone who may be pregnant, an older adult, or a young child, make sure to check on them to see if they need help with evacuating or moving to a safer place in their home.

You should become familiar with different evacuation routes and where your local emergency shelters are located, or with traveling to your family and friends home for shelter. Shelters are meant to provide temporary protection and a place to stay before, during, and after a disaster, and to provide access to water, food, and basic sanitary needs. Your local emergency official will also tell you where open shelters are located and the safest way to get there.

If you have pets, make sure you have a plan for how to evacuate with them, and listen for which shelters will accept pets. Also make sure that you bring a cage, leash, food, medication, and their veterinary records, including immunization records.

It is important for your safety that you do not go back home after a disaster until your local officials have declared it is safe to do so. Any attempt to go back home before they confirm it is safe can put you and your loved ones, as well as first responders, in dangerous situations.

If your local emergency official tells you to stay home during a storm, keep listening to the radio, TV, or social media for emergency updates. Do not go outside until you hear or see an official message from them that it is safe to do so. Stay away from windows, and move to a room with all walls and no windows. You may also stay in a closet or a bathtub and cover yourself with plywood as a safety precaution.

Be ready to leave your home if your home is damaged or if your local emergency official tells you to leave. You should move to a local shelter or to a neighbor's house if it is safe to stay there.

It is important to remember to always listen to your local emergency officials, become familiar with possible evacuation routes, find out where your local shelters are located and how to safely get to them, and make sure you and your family are fully prepared to take what you need in case you have to evacuate.