San Diego County, California Emergency Operations Plan: Annex Q Evacuation

The San Diego County Emergency Operations Plan is accompanied by an appendix, Annex Q, which focuses on evacuation specifically by providing general evacuation routes and road capacities, county-wide shelter capacities, resources available locally, and through mutual aid and access considerations for people with disabilities. Annex Q outlines strategies, procedures, recommendations and organizational structures that can be used to implement a coordinated evacuation effort in the San Diego County Operational Area. Annex Q also contains estimates on the number of residents within communities in the county who may require evacuation assistance, sheltering, transportation and help with pet evacuation.  

The devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina, in 2005, has elevated the importance of evacuation planning as a key element of emergency management. Born out of the lessons learned from evacuating New Orleans residents during Hurricane Katrina, as well as hurricanes Irma and Harvey in 2017, Annex Q was approved by the San Diego County Board of Supervisors in September 2018 and is used by all key partner agencies within the county to respond to major emergencies and disasters. The overarching goal of evacuation planning in the San Diego County Operational Area (OA) is to maximize the preservation of life while reducing the number of people that must evacuate and the distance they must travel to seek safe refuge. The 76 page Evacuation Annex is intended to be used as a template for the development of other jurisdictional evacuation plans and to support or supplement the evacuation plans prepared and maintained by each local jurisdiction. Cities in the region are encouraged to adopt the Emergency Operations Plan as their own with modifications as appropriate. 

Key objectives covered in the evacuation plan include:

  • Providing for evacuation to appropriate transportation points, evacuation points, and shelters. 
  • Providing adequate means of transportation for individuals with disabilities and others with access and functional needs, which includes, but is not limited to, older adults, children, and individuals who are transportation disadvantaged. 
  • Provide for the procurement, allocation, and use of necessary transportation and law enforcement resources by means of mutual aid or other agreements. 
  • Account for the needs of individuals with household pets and service animals prior to, during, and following a major disaster or emergency. 
  • Provide initial notification, ongoing, and re-entry communications to the public through the Joint Information Center. 
  • Assure the safe re-entry of the evacuated persons.

There are approximately 29,000 OA residents enrolled in In-Home Supportive Services programs who rely upon caregivers for support, and about 550 of those individuals are at a higher risk due to living alone and relying upon a caregiver for support. Therefore, it is critical that modes of available transportation are identified to assist the evacuation of people with disabilities and others with access and functional needs during an emergency. Annex Q indicates that a large-scale evacuation might require transportation that can accommodate wheelchairs, scooters, or other mobility aids. To address this need, lift-equipped buses or vans may be an option.

Another aspect highlighted in the plan is the importance of addressing pet evacuation and sheltering procedures. It is estimated that up to 25 percent of pet owners will refuse to evacuate without their animals, and the pets left behind may be a danger to first responders. Therefore, the County Department of Animal Services has plans in place to transport and shelter pets in a disaster under Annex Q of the OA plan, including the Animal Control Mutual Aid Agreement. Animal Control Officers, San Diego Humane Society, and private animal care shelters will assist in the rescue, transport, and sheltering of small and large animals. 

The evacuation coordination process is additionally outlined in the plan, with the decision to evacuate based on the nature, scope and severity of the disaster. The OA Emergency Operations Center will coordinate regional evacuation efforts and work to provide: 

  • transportation for those who need assistance, 
  • support for individuals with disabilities, including assistance with wayfinding and language interpretation,
  • the provision of accessible care and shelter services,
  • and communication with the private sector, private sector, community-based organizations, and faith-based organizations to utilize services and resources available to support the response.

To better facilitate coordination and cooperation, the county and state agency roles and responsibilities are outlined in the plan. 


Publication Date: September 2018

Related Organizations:

  • San Diego County, California

Related Toolkits:


Resource Category:

Resource Types:

  • Plans (other)

States Affected:

Go To Resource