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Staying Safe in Emergencies During COVID-19

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Staying Safe While Evacuating in Emergencies During COVID-19

Wildfires, earthquakes, power shutoffs and other emergencies can strike at any time, including during the pandemic. Though emergency sheltering presents many challenges, even under normal circumstances, the following information can ensure you find a safe place to stay while maintaining practices that decrease exposure to COVID-19.

If you need to evacuate, do not hesitate. If it is unsafe or you are directed to do so, leave your home immediately.

If you are not physically able to evacuate by yourself due to a disability or other condition and need transportation help, contact:

  • Sonoma County Paratransit/Volunteer Wheels at (707) 573-3377
  • In a life-threatening emergency, call 9-1-1.
  • Texting 9-1-1 is an option for those who are deaf, hard of hearing or have a speech disability, or who cannot safely call 9-1-1 in a dangerous situation, to reach Sonoma County Sheriff’s office or the police departments in Santa Rosa, Petaluma, Rohnert Park and Healdsburg only.

Assistance Finding Shelter in an Evacuation

In an evacuation, Sonoma County will set up Temporary Evacuation Points in various locations. You can find your nearest evacuation point by reviewing the available Evacuation Centers or by calling 211.

Public health or other qualified personnel will screen you for COVID-19 symptoms upon arrival at the Temporary Evacuation Point. Anyone who is identified as COVID-19 positive or symptomatic, and/or has been exposed to COVID-19, will not be sheltered with the general population.

Staff will direct you to the appropriate shelter for your situation, including one of several congregate shelters, non-congregate shelters, hotels and motels, and campgrounds/RV parking. These include places to stay with or without small pets. Staff there can also recommend other community resources that can be helpful during the evacuation.

All residents of Sonoma County can receive services and are safe at Temporary Evacuation Points and shelters regardless of immigration status.

Tips to Remember while Evacuated

If you are going to an evacuation center please be mindful of these habits that can protect you from COVID-19.

Face Coverings

It is very important to wear face coverings inside the home as much as possible, especially when you are in shared spaces. Remember, though an N95 mask with a valve is effective for smoke, it allows our respiratory droplets into the air. These can infect others in the house. If you wear an N95 mask with a valve, wear a fabric mask over it.


Maintain 6 feet distance from those not originally in your household as much as possible. Leave the windows open if air quality allows. Remember, always wear a mask in shared space in someone else’s home.


Wash your hands frequently. Avoid touching your face, mouth, or eyes. Disinfect commonly touched surfaces and items.


Don’t touch each other‘s food. While eating, maintain 6 feet of distance from members of the other household while eating. Eat outside when possible.

Leaving Home when you are Sick

If you have COVID-19 symptoms, DO NOT go to someone’s home. Call your healthcare provider. If you don’t have a provider, call 211. Depending on your condition, you might be able to stay at an Alternate Care Site (ACS) while you are sick. For more information, read What if I don’t have a place where I can safely isolate?

Staying with Family or Friends

Though not ideal, you may have to stay with family and friends who are not part of your household while you are evacuated or if you experience an extended power shutoff. If you follow these simple guidelines you can decrease the risk of getting or spreading COVID-19.

Monitor Symptoms

If someone starts to have COVID-19 symptoms once you have arrived at a house, have them stay alone in a room and use a separate bathroom. Call your healthcare provider. If you don’t have a provider, call 211. Consider going to a hotel, an ACS (see above), or the Temporary Evacuation Point for guidance.

Bedrooms and Bathrooms

Try to keep members of the same household in the same bedroom. Similarly, if possible, have a separate bathroom for members of each household. If that is not possible, wipe down surfaces after each use.

Frequently Asked Questions

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Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), emergency shelters must not exclude or deny benefits to people with disabilities. Public safety officials and shelter operators are working to identify care and reception sites and shelter locations that are physically accessible to people with disabilities and other access and functional needs, including people who use wheelchairs, walkers and other assistive devices.

DO NOT STAY HOME because you are COVID-19 positive or exposed.  Prepare to evacuate, or evacuate immediately if you are in danger, an evacuation order has been issued, or you feel threatened by the incident. Evacuate to a safe location or to a shelter site once established.

Inform care and shelter site screeners that you are COVID-19 positive or exposed. You will be routed or transported to the most appropriate shelter site.

If possible, use a taxi or ride-share service (e.g., Uber, Lyft) to transport you to the care and shelter site. If you are unable to coordinate a ride, or you do not have transportation and are in immediate danger, call 911. Pop-up staging areas for transportation will occur in evacuation zones, check back on SoCoEmergency.org for a location near you.

If you are an individual who is COVID-19 positive, please refrain from using public transportation if possible. Consider having an evacuation plan that minimizes exposure to others.  If you need to use public transportation or share a vehicle during an evacuation, wear a face covering and sit as far away from others as possible.

If you are an individual who has a disability or other access or functional needs, contact a paratransit provider near you ahead of time to create a plan:

Paratransit Providers

ATC/Intelitran (San Francisco) (415) 351-7000
Napa Valley Transit (707) 257-9217
Petaluma Paratransit (707) 778-4460
Rohnert Park Sunshine Bus (707) 257-9217
Whistle Stop Wheels (Marin) (415) 456-9062
Mendocino Transit Authority (Fort Bragg) (707) 964-1800
Sonoma County Paratransit/Volunteer Wheels (707) 573-3377

Contact your local transit provider to discuss alternative transportation options.