Shelter and Evacuation Options

Prior to each cyclone season, Townsville residents need to develop a Household Emergency Plan that includes evacuation and shelter considerations based on their circumstances and exposure to risk.

What is your risk?

  • Consider the location of your home and review the Storm Tide Evacuation Guide.
  • Consider the construction and condition of your home. Do you live in an older home (built before 1982) that is poorly maintained, or do you live in a caravan or temporary dwelling?
  • Consider your needs. Do you live alone, have pets or have special needs?

Consider your shelter and evacuation options

  • Shelter in Place - If you live in a well-constructed home located outside of a storm tide evacuation zone, your best option is to plan and prepare to shelter in place in your home with your family, friends and pets. It is important you identify the strongest, most protected part of your home to shelter in. This is usually the smallest room in the house with the least number of windows and external walls.
  • Evacuate to Shelter in a Safer Place - If you are potentially at risk, your best option is to prearrange your evacuation so you can shelter in a safer place with friends or family. Consider commercial accommodation or shelter options in your community as a last resort.

Sometimes it can be difficult to determine whether you should shelter in place (i.e. at home or at work) or evacuate to a safer location. Certain events may come with additional risks that require you to evacuate.

The following are some handy rules of thumb depending on your situation and the type of disaster or emergency:

  • Cyclone/storm tide – run from water, find a place to shelter out of the wind;
  • Riverine flooding – stay with friends in high places;
  • Bushfire – if you are going to leave, leave early;
  • Hazardous material accident – stay upwind or stay inside;
  • Tsunami – go inland one kilometre or go up ten metres;
  • Dam release – get out and move to higher ground quickly.

Types of evacuation

There are several types of evacuation that may occur depending on the type of disaster or emergency, including:

  • Self-evacuation: No formal authority required, you can choose to self-evacuate at any time if you don't feel safe. But please let someone know that you are evacuating and where you are going.
  • Voluntary evacuation: The Local Disaster Management Group (LDMG) in consultation with the District Disaster Coordinator will ask people in a particular area to voluntarily evacuate if there is a threat developing. This lets people know they are in a potential danger area and allows them ample time to make a considered decision about whether to leave.
  • Directed evacuation: The District Disaster Coordinator will issue a directed (mandatory) evacuation order when there is a definitive threat to life. You are legally bound to follow this direction and leave.

    All people in the areas defined in the directed evacuation order must follow given directions. The District Disaster Coordinator has the power to enforce the order. This power may be delegated to authorised officers in the field who will conduct the evacuation. Do not ignore this advice - the decision to issue an evacuation notice is not taken lightly.

    At this stage, Council will advise what evacuation centres will be opened.

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Shelters and Evacuation Centres

Council has agreement to use a number of buildings throughout the Townsville area within its disaster management processes and plans as pre- and/or post-impact centres.

Pre-impact centres include:

  • Public Cyclone Shelter - A purpose-built facility that provides temporary shelter for people during a severe tropical cyclone, who have been evacuated from storm tide evacuation zones or wind vulnerable accommodation, and who have not been able to leave the cyclone warning zone or shelter with friends or family in modern houses (built since 1982) outside the evacuation zone.
  • Place of Refuge – Although not purpose-built, Places of Refuge are facilities capable of providing protection for people from an impending disaster (usually a tropical cyclone), who have been evacuated from storm tide evacuation zones or wind vulnerable accommodation, and who have not been able to leave the cyclone warning zone or shelter with friends or family in modern houses (built since 1982) outside the evacuation zone.

These pre-impact facilities are designed to be in operation for a short period of time (up to 36 hours or when the cyclone threat has passed).

Post-impact centres include:

  • Evacuation Centres - Where people may be temporarily housed before an event (other than cyclone) or after an event. Evacuation Centres are capable of providing accommodation for people that have been adversely affected by the disaster and are unable to reside in their normal place of residence following the event.

    Evacuation Centres may be in operation for a considerable period of time until people are returned home or otherwise relocated.

The decision to prepare and open buildings as a Place of Refuge, Public Cyclone Shelter and Evacuation Centre is made by the Local Disaster Management Group and will be broadcast to the community via local media. Follow Council’s Disaster Dashboard (, listen to radio or contact Council for the location of buildings designated for use during an event.

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Tips for when you evacuate:

  • Ensure you turn off electricity, gas and water and that your property is locked and secure.
  • Tie a light coloured cloth to your front door, letterbox, fence or other highly visible area. This will inform emergency services you have already evacuated and they do not need to expend valuable time checking.
  • Notify a family member or friend outside of the threat area that you have evacuated and where you are going. Get this person to advise other family and friends.
  • Make arrangements for your pets.
  • Remember to take your emergency kit with you.

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Further information

Download our Shelter and Evacuation Options Guide for more information.

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