Emergencies - evacuations

Evacuations can occur day or night and are usually done to preserve life. Fires, floods and industrial accidents can all cause evacuations, although fires are the most common cause.

The emergency services are responsible for ordering an evacuation, but it is the council’s duty to receive the evacuees who have been made unintentionally homeless for the period of the evacuation.

Leaving your home

When an evacuation occurs the emergency services will set up a cordon. A cordon is a controlled area which the emergency services set up for safety or to preserve evidence.

The emergency services will ask everyone within the cordon to leave until it is safe or suitable to return.

The emergency services have no legal duty to remove you from your home unless the cordon has been set up in relation to a terrorism incident, in which case section 36 of the Terrorism Act 2000 applies - 'A police constable in uniform may (a) order a person in a cordoned area to leave it immediately'.

If the incident is not related to terrorism then you are strongly advised to follow the instructions given by the emergency services at the time. If you are advised to leave the cordoned area it is likely that your safety may be compromised if you stay behind in your property.

If you leave the cordoned area then the police have powers to stop you re-entering the cordon even if your property is within the cordon area.

If you are asked to leave the cordoned area as an evacuee, then you are advised to take essential items such as medication with you ONLY if you have time to gather them.

Where to go

You should stay with family and friends as nearby as possible, until the cordon is removed.

If you have no family and friends to go to, the council may establish an evacuation or rest centre.

Evacuation centres are sometimes referred to as rest centres. Councils have rest centre or evacuation plans in place so they can plan for such emergencies.

Who to contact

At the scene of the emergency and nearby there is likely to be a large amount of emergency service activity. There is also likely to be a local authority liaison officer who should be visible via the council’s logo. If you are an evacuee with nowhere to go you should make yourself known to that officer. If no officer is present you should make yourself known to the emergency services.

Evacuation centre

If an evacuation centre is established you will be informed of its location and may be asked to make your way to the centre or if it is some distance away transport may be provided.

In the evacuation centre you should expect basic sleeping equipment, food and drinks to be provided. Sleeping quarters will be communal as evacuation centres are usually set up in community halls or somewhere similar.

Those with disabilities or specialist requirements should make themselves known to the evacuation centre staff so that adjustments can be made to assist.

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