Shelter and evacuation

An emergency may cause a number of impacts. Some of these may require you to take shelter or be evacuated in order to protect you, your family, your community or work colleagues.


Go in, stay in, tune in

It is quite common in an emergency for the emergency services and other responders to advise everyone in the area to go in, stay in and tune in.

This may be because of smoke and toxic plumes, or perhaps acts of terrorism.

  • go in - shut windows and doors and shut down fans, fires, ventilators or any air conditioning system drawing air from outside
  • stay in - stay indoors
  • tune in - listen to the local radio or TV - information will be broadcast periodically, so keep listening to local stations including BBC Radio Berkshire and Heart

Being asked to leave a home or business can occur day or night and is usually only done to protect life. Fires, floods, industrial accidents and security issues can all cause evacuations.

The emergency services are responsible for deciding whether an evacuation is necessary. It is the council’s duty to make provision for those who have been made unintentionally homeless for the period of the evacuation.

The council’s ability to set up such facilities and how it will be able to respond will depend on the circumstances of the incident.


Leaving your home

When an urgent evacuation is needed you will be notified, normally by the emergency services who will most likely set up a cordon (a controlled area set up for safety or to preserve evidence). The emergency services will ask everyone within the cordon to leave until it is safe and 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 this case section 36 of the Terrorism Act 2000 applies. A police constable in uniform may order a person in a cordoned area to leave it immediately.

If you are asked to leave your home or place of work, if time allows, you are advised to take essential items such as medication with you. It's beneficial to have a grab-bag ready at all times with important items to take with you in an evacuation, or at least know what you would need to take with you. See our Preparing for Emergencies page for more information.

Regardless of why you are being asked to evacuate, take the request seriously to make sure you and responding agencies are kept safe.

Where to go

Depending on the situation, you may have time to grab your essentials and travel to be with friends or family until you are told it is safe to return.

It may be that due to the emergency this is not possible. In this case, you will be directed or taken to a place of safety - which may be outside or a building nearby.

The council and other agencies will attend as soon as possible to assist you, but this may take a little time.

There will normally be a registration process to take down your details and identify any special requirements. Depending on how long the emergency is likely to go on for, the council will find somewhere for you to wait until you can go home. This may be overnight accommodation. Where you go will depend on a number of factors including the time of day, the location, how long the emergency is likely to last and the weather conditions.

Also, transport may be arranged for you to be taken to stay with friends or family.

Emergency rest centres

It is the council’s duty to make provision for those who have been made unintentionally homeless for the period of an evacuation. The council’s ability to set up such facilities, and how it will be able to respond, will depend on the circumstances of the incident.

If overnight accommodation is required, an emergency rest centre with basic facilities will be put in place. Rest centres are usually set up in leisure centres, schools or church halls. They provide a safe shelter for people until they are allowed to return to their homes (or are provided with temporary accommodation).

If an emergency rest 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.

Setting up a rest centre is a fairly complex task. It does take time to process and put in place, which is challenging when you have just been evacuated and don't know when you will be able to go back.

There are a number of rest centre sites identified across the council area. However, where you will go will depend on their availability, where the incident is, how many people have been evacuated and therefore the size of rest centre needed.

These sites have limited capacity and, depending upon the scale of the event, you may be moved into neighbouring council areas to support the emergency.

Pet welfare

If you are evacuated in an emergency, it's up to you as an owner to make arrangements for your pets.

The best way to make sure your pet stays safe is to agree with friends or family in advance that you will take in each other's pets in an emergency. Make sure that this pet sitter does not live in the immediate area, or they may be having to evacuate as well.

It's a good idea to put together a 'pet emergency kit' in case you need to evacuate your home. This should contain:

  • carrier, litter tray and litter, poo bags
  • tinned or dried food, including bowls
  • a photograph of your pet for identification purposes, perhaps put a photograph in your purse or wallet now so it is ready when you need it
  • lead, collar and identity tag
  • any medication your pet needs

If you have advance warning that an evacuation is going to happen, try to place your pets somewhere safe such as a local cattery or boarding kennel.

Local animal charities may be able to help. If you're unable to get your pet to somewhere safe, get in touch and we'll try to help you find suitable accommodation for them.

Planning for an emergency isn't just a good idea for cats, dogs and other indoor pets. Do not forget to consider outside pets such as rabbits, guinea pigs and tortoises as well.

If you are evacuated with your pets to a reception centre, your pets may not be allowed in. Be prepared, for you and them, for the weather conditions, and to look after them outside until solutions can be put in place.

Larger animals and livestock

It's very difficult to evacuate large animals with little notice. Having a plan is vital in case of an emergency.

Some things to keep in mind when creating a plan are:

  • aim to evacuate animals as soon as possible to a safe place outside of the immediate area
  • arrange your evacuation route in advance and work out an alternative route just in case
  • set up safe transportation, make sure that you have available trucks, trailers, or other vehicles suitable for transporting farm animals
  • arrange to have experienced animal handlers and drivers to transport them
  • take your supplies with you
  • at an evacuation site you should have, or be able to readily obtain, food, water, veterinary care, handling equipment and generators if necessary

Disease outbreaks

In an animal disease outbreak, controls are placed over the movement of certain livestock.

This is to reduce the spread of disease and to make sure we can trace the root of the outbreak.

If you are unable to move your diseased livestock or outdoor pets, make sure they are as far from danger as possible.

Arrange for shelter and food to last them several days.