Should You Evactuate? "Know Your Zone" For When The Time Comes

Florida, hurricanes
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Back in September, as Hurricane Florence approached the East Coast with frightening and highly unpredictable power, Governor Ralph Northam of Virginia ordered a mandatory evacuation for anyone living in the evacuation zone A. While many individuals understand what territory that covers and where it does not, plenty of other residents have no idea due to a lack of information. If you’re one of the latter, then it’ll greatly benefit you to keep reading! (1)

What’s an Evacuation Zone?

A year ago, the state of Virginia initiated a new system briefly titled, “Know Your Zone.” By utilizing a detailed map forecasting down to each block in the neighborhood, this system divided the region into four zones: A, B, C, and D. These separated zones are intended to provide residents with a clear understanding of where they live and where danger might strike in order that they know what to do in the face of a natural disaster or if an evacuation is issued. According to The Virginian Pilot, “Avoiding unnecessary evacuation travel will reduce traffic congestion, promote highway safety and lessen overcrowding at storm shelters, state officials say.” The state’s whole goal in the process is to evacuate the people in danger without scaring otherwise safe residents into abandoning their homes and clogging up roadways unnecessarily. (1, 2)

As the Virginian Pilot explains, “The plan calls for local officials to instruct people what to do based on their zone–anything from moving nearby to higher ground or getting out of town. The color scheme reflects the same color coding system the National Hurricane Center uses.” The State officials of Virginia want residents to look up which zone they live in well before a hurricane hits in order to properly understand what to do. The map is organized carefully by color, with blue representing Zone A, green representing Zone B, orange representing Zone C, and red representing Zone D.  (1, 2)

How Do I Know What Zone I’m In?

The simplest way to understand which zone you live in is to type up your address on the emergency department’s website. In the case of a severe disaster where internet access might not be available, people are urged to get into contact with their local emergency managers or to call 211. Natural disasters such as hurricanes can be incredibly serious matters, and any notice of a required evacuation should not be taken lightly.  Something important to note, however, is that many addresses–especially those located on higher ground–are not awarded a zone, meaning that they are not expected to require an evacuation in any scenario of the identified storm. Additionally, many addresses border on two zones at once, in which case emergency professionals advise residents to do what makes you the most comfortable, be it an evacuation or not.  (1, 3)

Evacuation zones tend to change depending on what disaster is on its way. Different formations of hurricanes bring hugely varying impacts, so a lot of the evacuation information will vary on tides, storm intensity, path, and other meteorological factors. According to Jeff Stern, State coordinator of the Virginia Department of Emergency Management, the most worrisome aspect of hurricanes is the flooding they bring, since this is what tends to kill the largest amounts of people. (1, 4)

Per Stern, “The goal is saving lives. The goal is not comfort. If we ask people to stay back, they may be without power or stranded for a bit, but they will be alive.” If you’re looking to learn more, you can read frequently asked questions and answers about the plan at KnowYourZoneVA.org. (1, 5)

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