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Stay or Go?

The decision to evacuate or stay where you are is often dictated by circumstance, but the word to go coming from local officials is a good indicator of what your best option is. Neither option is usually for more than a few hours or days, but there are things you can do in advance to prepare, making it easier on you and your family or employees.

Our threats, while they can come from anywhere, are most likely to be from toxic spills, power outages, and winter storms. We‘ve always dealt with such threats as they come, and managed to help each other through them. Nonetheless, with storms seemingly getting more severe and the threat of something new by way of a pandemic on the horizon, preparedness is ever more important.

Sheltering-in-Place has typically been used when the air is contaminated and we are advised to remain in place and tape up doors and windows to prevent toxins from entering. It is feasible that shelter-in-place will be a tool—voluntary or otherwise—in the event of a flu or Avian Virus epidemic. The object being to prevent catching or spreading the disease. In addition to tape and plastic, several weeks-worth of food, water, meds, and various supplies might be needed. Below are some resources for families and businesses to assist in developing plans that suit your situation.



You may be advised to evacuate, with only minutes of notice, from your home, your workplace, school, or even while in your car. This is where the "Go-Kits" come in to play. Basically, you create a family plan providing for a meet-up spot, contact phone numbers, and any special details important for your family to know (doctors, legal assistance, all cell phones, etc)—whatever you need to be able to catch up with each other and regroup. Kits, by the door, in the car, for each person should contain any essential items (e.g. meds) , flashlight, spare batteries, change of clothes, food & water, spare cash, etc. The idea is that with only a moment's notice, you can grab the essentials and run. Evacuations are usually accompanied by Red Cross or other shelter set ups, but if you can stash some blankets and a battery or crank-up radio in your car, all the better.

Kits kept in cars, if room allows, might include some extras to make the evacuation more comfortable; don't forget to plan for your pets. The links and resources listed will provide lots of info, but the main thing is to think about it, consider what matters to you and what you need to do to protect yourself and family. Then just get started a bit at a time, using the resources listed for tips & ideas.

If you have only moments before leaving, grab these things and go!

  • Medical supplies: prescription medications and dentures.
  • Disaster supplies: flashlight, batteries, radio, first aid kit, bottled water
  • Clothing and bedding: a change of clothes and a sleeping bag or bedroll and pillow for each household member
  • Car keys and keys to the place you may be going (friend's or relative's home)



The usual shelter-in-place advisory will come in response to a local toxic situation. The duration will, also typically, not be more than several hours. Exceptions are the rule, however, so plan for a bit longer. This is the tape-the-windows-and-doors scenario. The "SIP" resources will give you all kinds of checklists and tips on how to prepare. Again, use what makes sense to you. A radio is a must, so you know when it's safe to come out; also food, water, meds, flashlights & cell-phones (with extra batteries). Don't forget your pets (cat litter might be handy, and paper towels).

In the event of a flu or virus pandemic—well, everything changes and expands. You should plan on a couple of weeks worth of food and water, initially (tip: get some good stuff, but also get things that aren't favorites, so you aren't tempted to eat them all up and find your "pantry" empty when you' can't get out to replenish supplies!).

Word is that an extended pandemic situation could cycle through many months. Food and other supplies into the state, medical supplies, gasoline, all will be impacted. Schools may be closed. Consider how this will affect you. Is there a plan at work to cover a pandemic event? Can you arrange to do any of your work at home?

The idea will be more one of voluntary "social distancing" to help prevent the spread of disease, than of taping up windows to prevent air infiltration. Not all of us will be able to do this, but those who can minimize contact with others might want to seriously consider doing so. Or, if you or someone in your family gets the flu, the SIP might become involuntary—as in quarantine. Either way, the impact can be huge and needs considering.

If you are driving a vehicle and hear advice to “shelter-in-place” on the radio, take these steps:

  • If you are very close to home, your office, or a public building, go there immediately and go inside. Follow the shelter-in-place recommendations for the place you pick described above.
  • If you are unable to get to a home or building quickly and safely, then pull over to the side of the road. Stop your vehicle in the safest place possible. If it is sunny outside, it is preferable to stop under a bridge or in a shady spot, to avoid being overheated.
  • Turn off the engine. Close windows and vents.
  • If possible, seal the heating/air conditioning vents with duct tape.
  • Listen to the radio regularly for updated advice and instructions.

Stay where you are until you are told it is safe to get back on the road. Be aware that some roads may be closed or traffic detoured. Follow the directions of law enforcement officials.

Evacuation/Shelter-in-Place Resources

Also see the listings on the resource links page and the Family/Individuals page for other kits and planning links, as well as resources for seniors, kids, disabilities, pets.




When the alert to evacuate your premises comes, you won't have a lot of time to clear your employees and any customers from the facility. We have a number of resource links that can help businesses of all sizes plan for a safe evacuation. At a minimum, consider these tips from FEMA's business preparedness guide for establishing evacuation procedures:

  • Depending on your operations, organize and train an emergency response team to confine and control hazardous material spills in accordance with applicable regulations.
  • Identify other facilities in your area that use hazardous materials. Determine whether an incident could affect your facility.
  • Identify highways, railroads and waterways near your facility used for the transportation of hazardous materials. Determine how a transportation accident near your facility could affect your operations.

We would add, to include plans for anyone with disabilities who is in the building. Talk with them, if they are employees, and get an idea ahead of time as to what might negatively affect their ability to evacuate.

Shelter-In-Place / Pandemic

An extended shelter-in-place situation could bring responsibility for the care of customers, delivery people, and employees, or anyone forced in off the street by the alert to get to shelter. In a pandemic situation, your business could be heavily impacted by employees who come in and spread or catch the disease, and equally heavily if they all stay home and shelter-in-place there. Your plan needs to evaluate the possibility of setting up telecommuting options where feasible, ways to minimize non-essential contact, and what supplies (food, water, first aid, masks, respirators, etc) to have on-hand. You want your business to survive and there's a lot of help to assist you in ensuring it does.

  • Start with a plan for the impact on business
  • Plan for impact on employees and customers
  • Establish policies, allocate resources, and create communications

Business Resources for Evacuation/Shelter-in-Place /Pandemic Planning


Pandemic Preparedness





Be Informed

Make A Plan

Make A Kit



Understanding Homeland Security Alert levels  (PDF)

Community Right To Know  (PDF)

Red Cross’s Safe & Well List  (Web)

Vermont Emergency Mgmt  (Web)

Pandemic Flu   (Web)

Vt. Dept. of Health
Public Health Preparedness (Web)







Off-site web pages open in new windows.


Family Contact Cards & Communications Plan  (PDF)

Disaster Planning for Pets  (Web)

Pets In A Disaster  (PDF)

Special Needs  (Web)

Seniors Preparedness  (Web)

Online Emergency Planning Guide for Businesses  (FEMA)      (PDF)

•Red Cross Business Guide—Preparing for the Unthinkable    (PDF)





Tips, Ideas

Helping Children Cope with Disaster (PDF)

Family Radio Services  (Web)

Emergency Financial Kit  (PDF)

Communicating During Emergencies  (Web)

Basic First Aid  (PDF)

Activity Book for Kids  (PDF)



In Spanish

Cruz Roja  (Web)

• Red Cross Guides  (Web w/PDFs)

Shelter In Place  (PDF)

Power Outages  (PDF)

Activity Book for Kids  (PDF)

Make an Emergency Plan  (PDF)

First Aid  (PDF)