Emergency evacuee guidance for the public

Always follow the instructions provided to you during an evacuation. This page is for general information only. 

On this page:

Evacuation stages

Depending on the severity of the situation, an Evacuation Alert or Order may be issued. It's important to understand the different stages.

  • Evacuation Alert: Be ready to leave on short notice
  • Evacuation Order: You are at risk. Leave the area immediately
  • Evacuation Rescinded: All is currently safe and you can return home

To be ready, know your hazards and follow Prepared BC's guides to prepare yourself, family, home or business in case an evacuation is ordered.

What to do when you receive an Evacuation Order

During an Evacuation Order, evacuees should do the following:

  1. Leave the area immediately. Choosing to remain puts yourself and others in danger
  2. Follow instructions provided on where to go
  3. Visit Emergency Info BC or follow @EmergencyInfoBC for news and updates
  4. Wait for the evacuation to be rescinded before returning home
  5. You may be instructed to register online with the Evacuee Registration Assistance (ERA) tool

Lab-confirmed COVID-19 positive

If you have been lab-confirmed COVID-19 positive and receive an evacuation order to leave home:

  • Connect with your case manager to receive latest health system information pertinent to evacuation
  • Your Indigenous or local government will provide instructions on how register as an evacuee
  • If possible
    • Evacuate by your own vehicle. If you do not have a personal vehicle, ask your case manager for instructions
    • Maintain physical distancing while travelling 
    • Proceed immediately to designated accommodations using the most direct, safe route

Under Self-isolation Order or have symptoms

If you receive an Evacuation Order and are under a Self-isolation Order related to COVID-19 (for example temporary foreign workers (TFW), recently returned to Canada, part of a contact tracing investigation) or have been advised to self-isolate after ​using the B.C. Self-Assessment tool:

  • Applicable to Self-isolation Order only: connect with your case manager for health system information and direction 
  • Tell the person that delivers the evacuation order, that you are self-isolating due to COVID-19
  • If possible evacuate by your own vehicle. If you do not have a personal vehicle follow guidance for public transportation
  • Proceed immediately to designated accommodations or a reception centre (if necessary)
  • Continue to follow the orders of the Public Health Officer 

Risks and dangers of not evacuating

Receiving an Evacuation Order can be an emotional experience. You may be reluctant to leave your home and community.

However, choosing to remain in an area that is under an Evacuation Order puts yourself, your family, and first responders in danger:

  • Evacuation routes can change or become impassible
  • Services, utilities and businesses that you rely on daily may be shut down
  • Help may not be able to reach an evacuated area because of a risk to their own safety or access is blocked

In other jurisdictions, fatalities have occurred when people chose to remain behind or waited too long to leave.

For example, according to a report from Australia’s Bushfire and Natural Hazards Cooperative Research Centre, 31% of the 552 wildfire-related fatalities in that country from 1956 to 2008 were the result of people evacuating too late after an evacuation order was issued. Another 26% of the deaths were related to people attempting to defend properties against an advancing wildfire.

Where to go if you receive an Evacuation Order

Only travel to support locations designated by your Indigenous governing body or local government. Supports will not be available if you travel to a non-designated location.

If you have a lab confirmed COVID-19 diagnosis speak with your assigned public health case manager.

Evacuees should first look to use their own resources, such as insurance, to support themselves. Staying with friends or family (also referred to as billeting) is not recommended during the COVID-19 pandemic. If you don't have your own resources the ESS program may be able to support you. You must connect with an ESS responder to receive supports from authorized suppliers. 

Delivery of supports

Each jurisdiction will be different, however some can perform the following support services remotely. 

  • Evacuee registration
  • Needs assessments
  • Providing information
  • Referrals for ESS supports (including food, accommodation, transportation, incidentals and clothing)

If in-person delivery of support is required, ESS responders will follow Public Health Officer orders.

Reception centres

Each jurisdiction has unique needs and operations. If you do go to a modified reception centre you can expect:

  • To be placed in accommodation quickly with further needs assessed after
  • To remain physically distant from other evacuees
  • Clear information posted on reception centre rules
  • Extra precautions taken to ensure your safety

Flood evacuee guidance

If flooding is imminent but you have not yet been instructed to evacuate, follow these tips:

  • Monitor local radio stations, television news and social media for the latest information from your local authorities on sandbagging stations, possible evacuation procedures and routes
  • Only use tap water if it has been tested and deemed safe by your local authority. Use bottled or boiled water for drinking, brushing your teeth, dish washing and cooking
  • If a flood warning is in effect, shut off electricity to areas that are at risk of flooding and move small appliances, electronics and smaller furniture to upper floors or areas not likely to be affected

If an Evacuation Alert is in place, be ready to leave on short notice. Take the following steps:

  • Make sure vehicles are parked away from streams and waterways
  • Remove toxic substances such as pesticides and insecticides from the flood area to prevent pollution
  • Do not attempt to shut off electricity if any water is present
  • Use sandbags to block floor drains and toilets to prevent sewage back-up

If an Evacuation Order is in place, you are at risk and must leave immediately. Follow all directions from officials and evacuate using the route(s) they’ve identified. Heed the following advice as you evacuate:

  • Do not attempt to cross rivers or flowing streams
  • Do not drive or walk across flooded roads – 6 inches of rushing water can knock an adult off their feet; 2 feet of water can carry away most vehicles – including trucks and SUVs
  • If your car begins to flood, abandon it quickly and head to higher ground

Wildfire evacuee guidance

If an Evacuation Alert is in place, be ready to leave on short notice. Take the following steps:

  • Move patio furniture, cushions and door mats indoors
  • Take down flammable curtains and window treatments
  • Connect garden hoses and fill large containers with water, such as pools, hot tubs and garbage cans. This can assist firefighters and help slow advancing flames
  • Ensure your house number is visible. This will help firefighters locate your home quickly 
  • Disconnect automatic garage door openers so doors can be opened by hand if you lose power

If an Evacuation Order is in place it means you are at risk and must leave immediately.

  • On your way out close doors and windows and turn on both interior and exterior lights so your home  is visible to firefighters in heavy smoke. Follow all directions from officials and evacuate using the route they've identified.

Natural gas safety

  • Do not shut off your natural gas when you receive an evacuation order, if requested by emergency officials, FortisBC will turn off natural gas service as a precautionary measure, or if there is an immediate threat to infrastructure
  • If you suspect a gas leak, turn off the gas valve and leave immediately and don't try to turn it back on, only a registered gas contractor can do that safely

Financial assistance

After a disaster, the provincial government may declare the event eligible for disaster financial assistance (DFA).

Recovery resources

After evacuation, these recovery programs and services may be helpful.