Should Your Camp Serve as an Evacuation Center?

Evacuation Center Pre-Commitment Questions for Camps

As weather events continue to occur throughout the year, the American Camp Association reflects on the lessons we learned in 2005 regarding camps serving as evacuation centers for the victims of hurricanes in the Gulf region. Many camps were called upon to serve a variety of needs — including housing evacuees. In preparation for future situations, we share with camps the following list of important questions camps should consider prior to agreeing to serve as an evacuation center.

What if you are called upon unexpectedly in a time of crisis? 
As was the case in 2005, camps may be called upon in times of emergency to serve as evacuation centers. Camps learned some important lessons when they were asked to serve quickly. Following is a list of important considerations:

Receiving Guests and Ensuring Safety:

  • Length of Time: How long will guests be staying? Consider whether you can even accommodate guests — Is camp in session? Is camp not in session? Will camp be in session soon? What about rental groups already booked at camp?
  • Permanent Housing: Who is securing permanent housing for your guests? How will guests be transported to new housing? What if permanent housing is not located quickly — what will you be able to do?
  • Liability Issues:  Have you spoken to your insurance company about coverage? Can you get certificates of insurance from other responsible organizations (e.g., FEMA)?  How will you orient guests to your rules, procedures, and safety issues? (What do you do if rules are broken?)
  • Security: Who will provide security and law enforcement for the camp? How will you monitor the coming/going of guests?
  • Registering Guests: You need to know who is at your camp. How will you “register” them?

Guest Services:

  • Sleeping Quarters: How will you provide accommodation? Will you separate males and females? What about married couples? What about children?
  • Food: How will you provide three meals a day to your guests? Who will prepare the food? Who will provide the food stuffs? Who will provide clean-up? How will you meet health department requirements for food safety and handling?
  • Laundry: How will you provide laundry services to your guests? How will you handle camp laundry — such as tablecloths and dishtowels?
  • Medical Assistance: Who will provide medical services to guests?
  • Counseling/Guidance: Who can provide counseling — spiritual, mental health, etc.?
  • Transportation: Who will provide transportation for guests to do errands, interview for jobs, seek housing, etc.?
  • Daily Program: Will you provide daily activities for guests? Who/how will you do it?

Facility Issues:

  • Housekeeping: Who will keep the facility clean everyday? Who will supply cleaning supplies?
  • Telephones: Guests will need to have access to telephones frequently to connect with family and friends and aid organizations. What is your phone capacity? Can you quickly get additional phone service (land lines and cell phones)? Who will pay for phone service?
  • Technology: Consider the need for computers, Internet access, printers, etc. Who can provide these things? How will appropriate use be monitored?

Other Important Issues:

  • Donations: Once word is out that you are serving as an evacuation center, how will you manage the donations that will arrive? What will you do with donations you cannot use?
  • Community Involvement: Do you have people in your community who can assist your camp in this effort? How will you recruit and manage them?
  • Reimbursement: If you are supposed to receive financial support from FEMA, the American Red Cross, or some other entity, how will you get the funds? When will you get the funds? Can you provide support before getting funds?

In the future, you may wish to officially pre-register as an evacuation center. If so:

  • The American Red Cross (ARC) has a program that pre-selects facilities as evacuation centers and trains volunteers. This may be an option for you to consider. Contact your local chapter of the ARC for more information:
  • In addition, pre-emergency, FEMA sets up “Logistical Centers.” If your camp would like to become involved pre-emergency in the FEMA preparation efforts, visit for details.

The American Camp Association provides a 24-hour-a-day Crisis Hotline for camps. The hotline is available to any ACA camp and can help you talk through any crisis situation. The hotline is neither a medical nor a legal advice service, but it serves as a third-party to talk through situations with camps and discuss potential options for next steps. The hotline is available any time at 800-573-9019.