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Emergencies & Your Health: If you have to evacuate

Getting ready to leave

CalFire suggests doing these things in advance at the evacuation warning stage  so you can leave quickly when an order to evacuate comes.

  • Make sure you know your community’s emergency response plan and have a plan on where to go when it is time to evacuate, and best routes for leaving your location.
  • Fill up the car's gas tank; make sure it is fully charged (if electric).
  • Shut all windows and doors. (In a fire evacuation, leave the doors unlocked; otherwise lock when you leave.)
  • Remove flammable window shades or lightweight curtains 
  • Move furniture to the center of the room, away from windows and doors, if possible
  • Shut off gas at the meter; turn off pilot lights.
  • Leave some lights on (visible from road) so emergency response team can see your house at night or under smoky conditions.
  • Shut off the air conditioning.
  • Load evacuation kits into car, and back it into the driveway (for a quicker getaway) with all doors and windows closed. Carry your car keys with you.
  • Check on neighbors and make sure they are preparing to leave.
  • Locate your pets and keep them nearby; prepare farm animals for transport and think about moving them to a safe location early.


For more advance preparation during fire warnings, see:

Make evacuation kits

The absolute essentials to take when we have to evacuate, according to CalFire's Wildfire Action Plan, are the 5 Ps:


CalFire's basic evacuation kit checklist:

As mentioned in CalFire's 5 Ps list, it is wise to include in any evacuation kit:

  • Folder or envelope with copies of important documents - birth certificates, COVID vaccine certificates, marriage certificates, car registration and proof of insurance, title to your home or your rental agreement, contact numbers and account information for homeowner's or renter's insurance, identity documents, etc. - so in a worst case scenario, if all is lost you have the details your need to rebuild your life. Scanned copies in electronic format on a computer are useful, but having a paper backup could make a big difference in a disaster.
  • Ditto important medical records and irreplaceable items you just can't live without.
  • If you can't bring along a computer, make sure that it is completely backed up in some way that you could access it easily again (cloud storage, and/or on disks or hard drives that you take with you).  
  • If you can bring a laptop and/or portable computing device with you, be sure to include power cords and chargers also.


Prepare - or make checklists for - different kinds of evacuation kits.

With advanced planning (and enough advance time), we can make the evacuation process much easier by preparing kit(s) ahead of time.

There are different kinds of evacuation kits to have on-hand.

  • A bug out kit or grab & go kit includes what will be needed for approx. 72 hours, and assumes that you will find shelter indoors (with family, a friend, or an emergency shelter in a community center or other public building).
  • A survival kit should contain supplies for more than 3 days, and might include camping equipment, food and food storage, water purification and sanitation supplies, solar device chargers, battery-powered lights and radio, and animal supplies. These things will be needed if evacuating to a county fairground or similar open space.
  • A car kit should include supplies to help you survive if stuck in a car without power for 24 hours (or longer), like warm hats / gloves /coats or thermal blankets, sufficient water, and emergency food; plus flares, reflective triangles, or other emergency rescue lights; and perhaps also battery-powered device chargers and/or radio. You can start with a basic car emergency kits obtained from automotive supply stores and add the rest.

if you have pets that will come with you, or larger animals to evacuate, you will need to include supplies for them also.

In addition, it's a very good idea to have a first-aid kit handy to care for injuries.

These links suggest what to include in your evacuation kit, depending on your assessment of how long the evacuation might last and on where you can go. The other links in this guide also have recommendations for what to put in your evacuation kit - customize your kit(s) to fit your family's needs.

Here's one example of a bug out kit for an older adult:

Find your emergency shelter

If an emergency warning has been announced, take a moment to locate the nearest public emergency shelter(s) - there might not be enough time to figure out where to go, once an evacuation order is issued. Besides locating the closest shelter(s), check the route needed to get there, and chart alternate paths in case roads are closed.

COVID-19 adds complications for public emergency shelters. 

Whether sheltering-in-place or going to a mass shelter, this site has useful advice:

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