Shelter and evacuation plans in 2020

Author: Dabney Weems

COVID-19 has affected our lives in so many ways. That is especially true when it comes to sheltering plans during an emergency. We are approaching the peak of hurricane season and the landscape for evacuation shelters is drastically different this year. North Carolina Emergency Management officials want you to know what to expect at shelters this year so that you can begin preparing.

Prepare, prepare, prepare and prepare some more 
You can never be too prepared. NCEM strongly encourages everyone to have an evacuation plan in place before a storm arrives. Know where you are going if evacuation orders are given. Evacuation shelters will be greatly modified this year due to the threat of spreading COVID-19. Plan to stay with family, friends or at a hotel. The shelter should be your last resort when evacuating.

You should also have your emergency kit ready. The kit should contain enough food, water and supplies to sustain each person and pet in the household for three to seven days. It should also include face masks, hand sanitizer and cleaning wipes. Learn more about the specifics of the emergency kit and preparing for a hurricane.

What about the shelters?
It cannot be stressed enough that shelters will be very different during the COVID-19 pandemic and should only be used as a last resort. 

Congregate shelters will have a decreased capacity to ensure people can maintain physical  distance. In some cases, cots may not be available. Non-congregate sheltering will also be used this year. NCEM officials strongly recommend using the shelters as a last resort and urge you to plan to stay with family, friends or at a hotel when evacuating.

Reception centers
Reception centers are new this year to assign evacuees to shelters. The centers will be located out of harm’s way along evacuation routes and will provide health screenings. Some may even offer a virtual queue to minimize contact.

Stay informed 
Before, during and after the storm it is imperative to stay informed to a reliable information source. You can:

Remember to Know Your Zone
Know Your Zone is a tiered evacuation system that focuses on areas most vulnerable to impacts from hurricanes, tropical storms and other hazards and will alert North Carolinians on when to evacuate. Local governments in 20 North Carolina coastal counties have drawn pre-determined evacuation zones. As storms approach, local officials will determine which zones need to be evacuated. 

Visit and learn your zone by entering your address into the interactive map. Don’t forget to find the zone for your workplace, children’s school or your loved ones too.

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