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Handbook 11-07
December 2010

Appendix G

Mass Evacuation Incidents

Excerpt from the National Response Framework Mass Evacuation Incident Annex, June 2008.

Coordinating Agency

Cooperating Agencies:

Department of Homeland Security/Federal Emergency Management Agency

Department of Agriculture
Department of Commerce
Department of Defense
Department of Energy
Department of Health and Human Services
Department of Homeland Security
Department of Justice
Department of Transportation
Department of Veterans Affairs
General Services Administration
American Red Cross
National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster
Corporation for National and Community Service

Table G-1


The Mass Evacuation Incident Annex to the National Response Framework (NRF) provides an overview of mass evacuation functions, agency roles and responsibilities, and overall guidelines for the integration of federal, state, tribal, and local support in the evacuation of large numbers of people in incidents requiring a coordinated federal response.


This annex:

  • Establishes the criteria under which federal support to mass evacuations is provided.
  • Provides a concept of operations for federal-level mass evacuation support.
  • Identifies the agencies/organizations involved in a federally supported mass evacuation.
  • Defines the roles and responsibilities of federal entities in planning, preparing for, and conducting mass evacuations in support of state, tribal, and local authorities.
  • Identifies guidelines to improve coordination among federal, state, tribal, and local authorities when federal evacuation support is required.


  • Homeland Security Act of 2002
  • Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act (Public Law 93-288)
  • Homeland Security Presidential Directive 5, Management of Domestic Incidents
  • Post-Katrina Emergency Management Reform Act of 2006
  • Pets Evacuation and Transportation Standards Act of 2006
  • Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990
  • Sections 504 and 508 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, as amended
  • Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964
  • Age Discrimination Act of 1975
  • Executive Order 13166, Improving Access to Services for Persons With Limited English Proficiency
  • Executive Order 13347, Individuals With Disabilities in Emergency Preparedness


The Department of Homeland Security/Federal Emergency Management Agency (DHS/FEMA) will primarily augment state, tribal, and local government plans and operations and secondarily be capable of implementing a federally supported evacuation and/or a federalized evacuation when requested or required.

Under the ADA, transportation providers must permit passengers with disabilities to be accompanied by their service animals.

DHS/FEMA recognizes and commits to a government-to-government relationship with American Indian and Alaska Native tribal governments.

Planning assumptions

Federal evacuation measures will be taken:

  • When state, tribal, or local governments indicate that their resources may or have become overwhelmed and the governor(s) or tribal official(s) request federal assistance.
  • In catastrophic incidents when state and local governments are incapacitated, and the president directs that federal mass evacuation support is required.

State authorities in affected areas, in conjunction with authorities in other states, will decide on the destinations for evacuees and will regulate the flow of transportation assets accordingly.

Federal agencies, working with state, tribal, and local governments, will ensure the governor(s) of state(s) receiving evacuees agree to accept these individuals prior to evacuation.

The incident may cause significant disruption to the area's critical transportation infrastructure, hampering evacuation operations.

State, tribal, and local governments recognize there is substantial need to coordinate with federal support agencies on population movement. Federal agencies will coordinate their actions with state, local, and tribal governments. Federal agencies will support state, tribal, and local governments to ensure the governors of the states receiving evacuees from the affected states agree to accept these individuals prior to evacuation.

State authorities in affected areas, in conjunction with authorities in other states, will decide on the destinations for evacuees and will regulate the flow of transportation assets accordingly.

Federal resource requirements for a precautionary evacuation are based on the expected magnitude of the event and request of the governors of the potentially impacted states. State policies and guidelines governing household pet evacuations are utilized when incorporating household pet issues into evacuations. State, tribal, and local planners are aware that individuals may choose to not evacuate if directed to leave their animals behind.

Residents of the evacuated area will need to return to the area post-event if possible. Plans and methods are necessary to facilitate return of evacuated residents.

Members of the special needs population may require additional support or assistance in certain functional areas.

Key Considerations

  • Lead time required to conduct mass evacuations: Plans may be activated as much as 72 hours prior to an evacuation. Resources may need to be mobilized as much as 48 hours prior to the start of evacuations to have sufficient capacity in place once the evacuation order is given.
  • Limits in weather forecasting: The variables in forecasting that track, intensity, and forward speed of tropical weather systems (the most likely and frequent reason for evacuations) make it extremely difficult for decision makers to commit costly resources as much as five days before the onset of tropical storm-force winds. In some cases, storms at this stage are not sufficiently well formed to indicate the need for evacuation.
  • Interdependencies between shelters and transportation: The transportation solution to a mass evacuation is based on the numbers of people needing evacuation, availability of privately owned transportation, numbers of evacuees with special mobility and medical needs, the time available to conduct operations, and the distance to (and availability of) shelters. It is critical to identify and predesignate general and special needs population shelters as close to the embarkation points as safely possible. The designation and distance to household pet shelters or shelters that will accommodate pets are equally important to the success of an evacuation.
  • Special needs of children: It is critically important to recognize the special needs of children during mass evacuations. Reunification of children separated from their parents will be an issue during evacuation, and consideration must be given to accomplishing reunification.
  • Special needs populations: Accommodations must be made for the special needs of the citizens of the affected area; including assistance in communication, mobility, maintaining independence, and medical care.
    • Service animals: The ADA defines service animals as any guide dog, signal dog, or other animal trained to provide assistance to an individual with a disability including, but not limited to, guiding individuals with impaired vision, alerting individuals with impaired hearing to intruders or sounds, providing minimal protection or rescue work, pulling a wheelchair, or fetching dropped items. Service animals have access to the same facilities as their humans.
    • Other animals: The requirements for transporting and arranging for shelter and care of animals when they need to be relocated from their homes are of significant importance.
    • Household pets: Planning for and accommodating household pets as a component of mass evacuations is critical. History demonstrates that many residents will refuse to evacuate or resist rescue if they are forced to leave their household pets behind. Through contracts with bus and air carriers, DHS/FEMA will evacuate service animals accompanied by owners or keepers, consistent with federal laws and within the terms and conditions of relevant transportation contracts. According to Emergency Support Function (ESF) #6, Mass Care, Emergency Assistance, Housing and Human Services will encourage state, tribal, and local entities to plan for the co-location of pet shelters near general populations when possible during federal evacuations to receiving cities and states. ESF #6 personnel will provide coordination of animal owner identification, tracking, reunification, and social support. ESF #6 personnel will also coordinate pet issues, including pet evacuation, care, and sheltering, with appropriate government and nongovernment support agencies. ESF #8, Public Health and Medical Services, will assist in providing emergency veterinary care for sheltered and rescued animals, epidemiological monitoring and reporting of emergency-related animal health issues, and management of bites and injuries to humans. ESF #15, External Affairs, allows for coordination between ESF #15 personnel and state, tribal, and local authorities to ensure that animal evacuations, response instructions, and status updates are communicated appropriately and in a timely manner.
    • Environmental contamination: Evacuation efforts may be impacted when they are taken in response to a large-scale hazardous materials (HAZMAT) incident. Evacuation decision makers should consult with available HAZMAT officials as appropriate regarding the location of embarkation sites and evacuation routes.
    • Victim decontamination: State, tribal, and local officials retain primary responsibility for victim screening and decontamination operations when necessary in response to a HAZMAT incident. Federal resources are limited and are coordinated through ESF #8.
  • Events with and without warning: The concept of operations applies to events for which there are warnings (including hurricanes and flooding) as well as events for which there are no warnings (such as industrial accidents and terrorist attacks).
  • Critical infrastructure: A mass evacuation could present a range of implications for many of the critical infrastructure and key resources (CIKR) sectors both within the impacted areas and across the nation. The evacuation could directly affect CIKR operations, supply lines, and/or distribution systems. See the NRF CIKR Support Annex for details.

Concept of Operations


The conduct of evacuation operations is generally a state, tribal, and local responsibility. However, there are circumstances that exceed the capabilities of these jurisdictions to support mass evacuations. When practical and possible, precautionary mass evacuation support is provided before an event to move citizens away from a potential incident when warning is available and after an event when conditions are such that it is unsafe for citizens to remain in the area. In instances where federal support is required, DHS/FEMA will coordinate federal support with the state/tribal government.


Federal support to mass evacuation operations will be provided at the state/tribal level and scaled to the incident. Evacuation from a single state may be supported from the state emergency operations center, regional response coordination center (RRCC), or a joint field office. Multistate incidents could be coordinated from an RRCC. Large-scale evacuations resulting from a catastrophic event will require national-level coordination. Regardless of the scale of the incident, coordination among numerous command entities will be required to carry out the major functions of evacuation operations.


Federal mass evacuation support will require the cooperation of many different ESFs:

  • ESF #1 provides transportation technical assistance and analysis for evacuation operations and evacuation route conditions.
  • ESF #3 ensures debris removal and clearance of evacuation routes.
  • ESF #5 provides situational awareness of and coordination of mass evacuation efforts.
  • ESF #6 provides information and coordination in the non-medical mass care aspects required for mass evacuations, including housing and human services.
  • ESF #7 provides goods/services to support evacuation efforts and transportation services.
  • ESF #8 provides supplemental assistance to state, tribal, and local governments in identifying the public health and medical needs of victims.
  • ESF #11 provides information and coordination for the evacuation of household pets.
  • ESF #13 provides support of state, tribal, and local public safety and security measures (e.g., crowd control, traffic direction, and control of contra flow lanes used in evacuations).
  • ESF #15 ensures that sufficient federal assets are deployed to the field to provide accurate, coordinated, and timely information to affected audiences.

Coordination and Communications

A mass evacuation, by its scope, may result in evacuees crossing jurisdictional lines. When federal evacuation support is required, the existing federal coordinating structures will be used to provide coordination of the operation.

All facilities and related support necessary for operations are sourced through the following ESFs when they are activated and requested to do so.


The transportation function is responsible for ensuring the evacuation of all affected populations by providing resources to transport those individuals and households that do not have the means to self-evacuate and ensuring sufficient transportation assets, including accessible transportation assets, are available.

DHS/FEMA maintains contracts capable of providing bus and aviation evacuation support and can contract more. If commercial transportation is not available, additional transportation assistance may be requested from the Department of Defense (DOD) and other federal departments. When DHS/FEMA requests DOD support, DOD may provide support on an as-available basis when approved by the secretary of defense.

DHS/FEMA is responsible for ensuring that adequate resources are available for evacuation efforts, including but not limited to ensuring fuel and basic vehicle service are available along evacuation routes and vehicle location devices are available for federal evacuation vehicles.

DHS/FEMA, in conjunction with ESF #1, is responsible for coordinating evacuation routes with state, tribal, and local agencies and, in particular, determining the status of transportation infrastructure to be used for evacuation.

ESF #1 will facilitate coordination regarding the impact of outflow of persons and traffic on the entry of response teams and supplies into the affected area.

DHS/FEMA supports mass evacuations through several activities, including processing and coordinating requests for the movement of goods, equipment, and responders through ESF #7.

DHS/U.S. Coast Guard, in cooperation with ESF #1, coordinates planning and executing of evacuations across bodies of water.


The fuels function ensures that adequate fuel supplies are available in an evacuation. Considerations include availability of fuel for individuals who are self-evacuating, availability of fuels for government-supplied transportation vehicles, and provision of fuel to emergency response vehicles along evacuation routes. DHS/FEMA coordinates with:

  • State, tribal, and local governments and ESF #12 to ensure that adequate supplies of fuels are pre-positioned along evacuation routes.
  • ESF #12 and state, tribal, and local governments to ensure that special arrangements are made for fuel staging or deliveries along evacuation routes.
  • ESF #12 and ESF #13 to set up and regulate the use of separate refueling sites for the use of emergency responders during an evacuation.

The Department of Energy, ESF #12, or other authorized government entities may initiate various waiver requests or actions by other federal agencies to facilitate evacuation, including:

  • Driver-hour waivers from the Department of Transportation (DOT).
  • Truck weight-limit waivers from state DOTs.
  • Jones Act waivers from the Department of Commerce or DHS.
  • Fuel-quality waivers from the Environmental Protection Agency.

Mass Care, Emergency Assistance, Housing, and Human Services

The ESF #6 mission is to provide sheltering/housing, feeding, bulk distribution of essential items, and family reunification support and resources to individuals and households that do not have the personal resources or access to personal resources to meet these needs. In an evacuation, this function must be carefully coordinated with agencies providing evacuation services.

  • DHS/FEMA coordinates with state, tribal, and local entities, as well as the support agencies under ESF #6, to ensure adequate shelter and care facilities, including those for individuals with special needs, are available for receiving evacuees.
  • ESF #6 will provide support to state, tribal, and local evacuation efforts by facilitating requests for food and shelter supplies, and security in support of mass evacuations.
  • ESF #6 will work with state lead agencies for mass care prior to, during, and after an incident to identify potential host states.

DHS/FEMA voluntary agency liaisons (VALs) will coordinate with voluntary agencies affiliated with National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster (NVOAD), other nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), and private-sector entities for federally supported evacuation in affected and receiving states.

Public health and medical support

The medical care and special needs requirements of evacuees must be identified and appropriate support provided. This support includes oversight of specialized transportation for evacuees with medical and functional needs, care for evacuees whose needs cannot be accommodated in general population shelters, and monitoring support for individuals at pickup points.

  • ESF #8 supports state, tribal, and local health care authorities by providing medical support at staging areas and pickup points to perform triage of citizens prior to evacuation.
  • ESF #8 will coordinate medical support with special needs shelters as requested.
  • ESF #8 supports state, tribal, and local governments in the evacuation of patients, including those in hospitals, hospices, and nursing homes as well as individuals who are identified at evacuation centers as having medical problems. ESF #8 is responsible for the evacuation of patients who are treated within the National Disaster Medical System (NDMS) en route to, from, or at field facilities.
  • ESF #6 will coordinate emergency first aid, and ESF #8 will coordinate emergency medical care with state, tribal, and local agencies at the staging areas and pickup points.
  • ESF #8 will support ESF #11 to coordinate with state, tribal, and local governments to provide veterinary emergency first aid and care at evacuation staging areas/pickup points. Additionally, animals will be screened at staging areas/pickup points to confirm health status and to identify potential carriers of zoonotic diseases.

Public safety and security

State and local law enforcement agencies have primary responsibility for public safety and security during a mass evacuation. State, tribal, and local law enforcement agencies will be conducting operations in accordance with their evacuation plans and protocols. However, they could rapidly become overwhelmed and require logistics or operational support from within their states, from other states pursuant to mutual aid and assistance compacts, or from the federal government through ESF #13.

ESF #13 may involve assisting state, tribal, and local governments with the following evacuation-related functions:

  • Security assessments of pre-identified transportation facilities.
  • Site security at designated evacuation locations.
  • Traffic control and/or transportation security duties.
  • Screening of evacuees for prohibited weapons.
  • Force protection.
  • General planning and technical assistance.

In addition, ESF #13 coordinates with state, tribal, and local authorities to ensure security and traffic/crowd control are provided at staging areas/pickup points and evacuation vehicles if requested. It may also provide requested support in such areas as public safety, security assessment, access control, and specialized security resources. On federal property, ESF #13 coordinates with federal agencies to provide security for shelter facilities for evacuees.

Department of Defense Responsibilities

Provide evacuation support for patient movement under the NDMS on an as-requested/as-available basis when approved by the secretary of defense. After activation of NDMS, DOD may assist ESF #8 in the transportation of patients with specific medical needs on a by-request/as-available basis. DOD regulates all patients moved by them under NDMS. As such, DOD utilizes a tracking system under U.S. Northern Command for tracking the subset of patients moved by NDMS. If commercial transportation is not available, (upon approval by the secretary of defense) DOD may also provide additional transportation assistance for general evacuation under ESF #1.

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Responsibilities

  • Provides logistics resources to support the preparation and execution of ESF #3 activities.
  • As part of its execution of ESF #3 responsibilities, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) may provide assistance with the establishment of field offices when requested by DHS/FEMA.
  • Provides support to repair damages to roads, bridges, and other structures along evacuation routes.

Graphic showing diagram of a mass evacuation process flow

Figure G-1. Mass evacuation process flow



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