Ready NHC: Evacuation & Shelters

In the event of an emergency, New Hanover County may order residents to evacuate from dangerous areas and may choose to open shelters. The type of emergency and area affected will determine evacuation areas, as well as where and how many shelters will be opened. If an event requires the Emergency Operations Center (EOC) to be activated, county officials will provide emergency information and instructions, including details about shelter openings, at

When creating your emergency preparedness plan, include plans for both evacuating and staying put, also referred to as “sheltering in place.”  Read more about preparing for each of these scenarios in the panels below. More information is also available at

Twenty Eastern North Carolina counties participate in the NCEM Know Your Zone program.  This is one of MANY tools that NHC Emergency Management uses to help you make the decision to evacuate during a coastal weather event.  Learn more here.

Be sure to visit the alerts page at to sign up for Emergency Alerts to get information in case of an evacuation or shelter-in-place order,

A variety of emergencies may cause an evacuation. In some instances you may have a day or two to prepare, while other situations might call for an immediate evacuation. Planning ahead is vital to ensuring that you can evacuate quickly and safely, no matter what the circumstances. Be prepared before disaster strikes:

Signing up for the county’s emergency alerts is the quickest way to receive this information. Residents should take time now to review evacuation routes and plan where you’ll go if evacuation is needed.

Learn more about evacuating at

COVID-19 and Hurricane Season – Sheltering

Social distancing guidelines and shelter guidance from the American Red Cross requires about 100 square feet of space per person to prevent the spread of COVID-19, which will greatly reduce the capacity of county emergency shelters for the 2021 hurricane season. Residents should plan now where they will go if a storm impacts our area. County emergency shelters will be very limited and should only be considered as a last resort.


Public shelters should be considered “shelters of last resort” with very basic provisions for a safe, dry environment, and limited meal capabilities. At least one shelter will be designated a pet co-location shelter where residents can evacuate with their cats or dogs.

For residents who choose to stay at a shelter during an emergency, please review the list of recommended items to bring and other items to consider, and plan to take your disaster supplies kit with you. Keep in mind that alcoholic beverages and weapons are forbidden in emergency shelters, and smoking is restricted. If you plan to bring a pet to a co-location shelter, please note:

  • Only cats and dogs can be accepted at the pet co-location shelter
  • Owners must stay at the shelter with their pets
  • Pets will be housed in a separate area of the shelter due to health and safety concerns
  • Bring your pet(s) vaccination records and at least a 5 to 7 day supply of food

The shelters listed below are predetermined locations in the county that may be used as emergency shelters. If needed, county officials will work with the state’s Emergency Management division to open additional shelters at inland locations.

It is important to note that the shelters will not open or close at the same time. In the event of an emergency, check, TV, and radio for shelter updates.

The below shelter locations are used for planning purposes. To see what shelters, if any, are open, visit

Blair Elementary School
6510 Market St.
Wilmington, NC 28405
Map »

Codington Elementary School
4321 Carolina Beach Rd.
Wilmington, NC 28412
Map »

Eaton Elementary School
6701 Gordon Rd.
Wilmington, NC 28405
Map »

Johnson Pre-K School
1100 McRae St.
Wilmington, NC 28401
Map »

Trask Middle School
2900 N. College Rd.
Wilmington, NC 28405
Map »

There may be situations when it is best to stay put to stay away from possible dangers outside, also referred to as “sheltering in place.” In some cases, staying put and creating a barrier between yourself and potentially contaminated air outside, a process known as “sealing the room,” is a matter of survival.

Use common sense and available information to assess the situation and determine if there is immediate danger. Check, TV, and radio for emergency information and instructions. If you see a lot of trash in the air, or if emergency responders say the air is badly tainted, you may be asked to “seal the room” where you are.

The process used to seal the room is considered a temporary protective measure to create a barrier between you and potentially contaminated air outside. It is a type of sheltering in place that requires preplanning. If local officials instruct residents to seal the room:

  • Bring your family and pets inside.
  • Lock doors, close windows, air vents and fireplace dampers.
  • Turn off fans, air conditioning, and forced air heating systems.
  • Take your emergency supply kit unless you have reason to believe it has been contaminated.
  • Go into an interior room with few windows, if possible.
  • Seal all windows, doors and air vents with 2-4 mil. thick plastic sheeting and duct tape. Consider measuring and cutting the sheeting in advance to save time.
  • Cut the plastic sheeting several inches wider than the openings and label each sheet.
  • Duct tape plastic at corners first and then tape down all edges.
  • Be prepared to improvise and use what you have on hand to seal gaps so that you create a barrier between yourself and any contamination.
  • Local authorities may not immediately be able to provide information on what is happening and what you should do. However, you should watch TV, listen to the radio, and check often for official news and instructions as they become available.

Emergency Management: 230 Government Center Drive, Suite 115 • Wilmington, NC 28403 • Phone 910-798-6900 • Fax 910-798-6904
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