Evacuation Terms

Exclusion Zone - An area established by the commander in charge of the disaster scene into which entry is temporarily forbidden due to extreme danger. Only official responder vehicles are allowed entry until the situation is deemed safe again.

Evacuation Advisory - An advisory is issued when there is reason to believe the emergency will escalate and require mandatory evacuations and provides residents time to prepare for evacuation.

Voluntary Evacuation - Voluntary evacuation is used when an area will most likely be impacted and residents are willing and able to leave before the situation worsens. This is helpful for residents with medical issues, pet owners and others who need more time to evacuate.

Mandatory Evacuation - When the situation is severe and lives may be in danger, the governor has the authority to order mandatory evacuations. Should this occur, you must leave the area immediately. Follow any instructions you receive from law enforcement officers or fire officials.


No single method of communication is failsafe during an emergency, so regional public safety officials use a combination of five methods to keep the public informed during an emergency.

  • Local government public information officers can prepare and distribute press releases for broadcast by local media outlets.
  • Emergency managers can initiate the Emergency Alert System, which interrupts local radio and television broadcasts with important information.
  • Public safety officials can directly broadcast messages over government cable channels.
  • First responders and credentialed volunteers can go door-to-door to alert citizens.
  • If applicable, the local emergency notification system can be used to automatically call affected residents.

If You Have to Evacuate and There's Time

Remember, there is nothing you own worth your life! Please evacuate immediately when asked by fire or law enforcement officials. If you are concerned, don't wait to be asked to leave. Drive slowly, turn on your vehicle headlights and stay as far to the right side of the road as possible.

Click here to download Evacuation Guide

Wear and carry:

  • Long pants, long-sleeved shirt or jacket made of cotton or wool, a hat and boots.
  • Gloves, a handkerchief and goggles to cover your face and water to drink.
  • Flashlight and portable radio from your to-go bag tuned to a local radio station.

Family members should:
  • Evacuate early, especially if not essential to preparing the house for wildfire.
  • Follow practiced evacuation routes to the designated safe meeting place.
  • Relay plans to the designated contact person.

For your animals:
  • Evacuate them if possible.
  • Contact your county's animal services department for assistance.
  • Bring current pet photos (make sure distinguishing markings are visible), health records and paperwork, especially vaccination information stored in waterproof bags, medications and dosage instructions.
  • Secure pets in their own carrier or cage.
  • Place your pet to-go bag in the car.

For your vehicle:
  • If you can lift your garage door manually, disconnect the electric garage door opener, and place the vehicle in the garage pointing out. Leave the garage door unlocked and closed. If you cannot lift your garage door manually, park the vehicle in the driveway facing out.
  • Leave keys in the ignition.
  • Roll up the windows.

Place in your vehicle:
  • To-go bag.
  • Disaster supplies kit.
  • Important documents (bank, IRS, trust, investment, insurance policies, birth certificates, marriage certificates, death certificates, medical and immunization records, wills, contracts, titles and deeds).
  • Credit and ATM cards and extra cash.
  • Medications.
  • Driver's license, passport and Social Security cards.
  • Laptop, charger and backup of desktop computer files.
  • Address book.
  • Cell phone and charger.
  • Family photo albums and videos.
  • Family heirlooms.
  • Toys, books and games for entertainment.

Inside your home and out buildings:
  • Close all interior doors.
  • Leave a light on in each room.
  • Remove combustible curtains and other materials from around windows.
  • Close windows, skylights and exterior doors (house, garage, shop and barn).
  • Close fire-resistant drapes, shutters and blinds.
  • Turn off all pilot lights.
  • Move overstuffed furniture (couches and easy chairs) to the center of the room.
  • Close fireplace damper.
  • Turn off air conditioning.
  • Place an EVACUATED sign in the front window.

Outside your home and out buildings:
  • Place combustible patio furniture and accessories inside or toss them away from the house.
  • Remove barbeque propane tanks and place away from the house where they can safely vent.
  • Shut off propane at the tank or natural gas at the meter.
  • Close or cover foundation, attic and eave vents with precut plywood covers or several layers of aluminum foil.
  • Cover windows with plywood panels at least 1/2-inch thick.
  • Prop a noncombustible ladder against the house.
  • Connect garden hoses to faucets and attach nozzles set on spray.
  • Remove excelsior pads from swamp coolers and toss them away from the house.
  • Leave doors and gates unlocked.
  • Turn on outside lights.
  • Fill trash cans and buckets with water and place where firefighters can find them.
  • If you have an emergency water source, post WATER SOURCE HERE sign in the predetermined spot clearly visible from the street.

Always Register With Official Personnel When You Arrive at a Shelter.

If You Cannot Leave

  • If you are unable to evacuate, stay in your home during the fire. It will be much hotter and more dangerous on the outside.
  • Call 911 for assistance.
  • Turn on all exterior lights.
  • Stay away from windows and move to an interior room or hallway.
  • Do not attempt to leave until after the fire has passed and you can safely leave.
  • Check for small fires inside the house and extinguish them.
  • Drink plenty of water.
  • Make sure you can exit the house if it catches fire.
  • Fill sinks and tubs with water.
  • Place wet rags under doors and other openings to prevent entry of embers and smoke.
  • Once the fire front has passed, check your flowerbeds, roof, rain gutters, attic and crawl space for fires or burning embers and extinguish them.

If You Cannot Evacuate Your Animals

  • Bring small animals indoors. Do not leave pets tethered outdoors.
  • Leave only dry food in non-spill containers. Do not leave treats or vitamins.
  • Depending on your pet's needs, leave water in bathtubs, sinks or nonspill containers.
  • Do not confine mixed species of pets, such as cats, dogs, hamsters and birds in the same room even if they normally get along.
  • Move livestock and horses to a safe area, such as a recently grazed or mown pasture, riding arena or irrigated pasture. Never release them onto streets and roads. Provide enough feed and water for at least 48 hours.
  • Notify fire agency personnel of livestock on pasture or rangeland to coordinate evacuation.
  • Notify your local animal services department about animals you could not evacuate.

Evacuation Scenes

During a wildfire evacuation, it will likely be dark, smoky, windy and hot. There may be burning embers blowing about, no power, no telephone service and poor water pressure. View footage from actual wildfire evacuations below and see how a community evacuation drill is conducted.

  • Oakland Hills Fire - Coming Soon
  • Caughlin Fire - Coming Soon
  • Grizzly Fire - Coming Soon