West Berkshire Council

Evacuation and Shelter

Help and advice on what to do in the event of an emergency evacuation

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, but 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 evacuation occurs, the emergency services will most likely 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 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 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.

It's beneficial to have a grab-bag ready at all times with important items to take with you in an evacuation. See Preparing for Emergencies.


Where to go

If at all possible you should stay with family and friends as nearby as possible until you are told it is safe to return. If you are evacuated in an emergency you will also need to make arrangements for your pets. The best way to make sure your pet is safe is to agree with friends or family in advance that you will take in each other's pets should an emergency occur. See Pet Welfare During Emergencies for more information.

If you have no family and friends to go to, the council may establish a rest centre which will provide basic welfare facilities for you.

If a rest centre is established, you will be informed of its location and may be asked to make your way to the centre. If it is some distance away, transport may be provided.