Be Ready for Emergencies

Be Ready for Emergencies

Be Ready: Understand and plan for evacuations

Flood season typically begins in late April in the NWT. The risk of flooding in communities is highest during spring break-up when ice moves unpredictably through rivers during thaw. Download the Be Ready for Floods Planning Workbook


Sometimes during emergencies, evacuations are necessary to protect people from more harm. Understand how evacuations work and be ready if the time comes.

Planning for an evacuation

Being ready for an evacuation comes down to four simple, but important steps:

  • Make an emergency plan: thinking ahead will prepare you and your household to protect what’s important and be ready when an evacuation may be required
  • Have an emergency kit: your emergency kit will prepare you to leave at a moment’s notice and sustain yourself until help arrives
  • Know your community emergency notification methods: know how community officials will let you know an evacuation is required (i.e. siren, local radio, door-to-door, public alerting, etc.)
  • Know your community assembly points: your community may already have a plan for where to go if evacuation is necessary. Visit their website or get in touch to learn about assembly points.
  • Stay up-to-date: Keeping up-to-date with local news and alerts will allow you to know when there is a risk you may need to evacuate. Participate in any public information sessions held in your community if there are opportunities.
    • Visit: Finding public safety information 

Common reasons for evacuation

Evacuation may be necessary any time there is a high risk or threat to human life in an area.

In the Northwest Territories, evacuations are most common when wildfire or floods risk damaging communities and threaten human life.

Unincorporated areas, like populated areas with homes or cabins that aren’t part of a community, are also sometimes evacuated. This most often happens due to wildfires or floods.

Specific facilities or groups of homes may also be evacuated due to local threats, like environmental contamination or bomb threats.

Who is in charge of evacuations

In general, evacuations are managed by community governments.

The NWT Emergency Management Organization or Regional Emergency Management Organizations may also call for evacuations if community governments need assistance to manage an evacuation or need to evacuate residents to another community. They may also assist in communicating about evacuations if community governments request assistance or need to use the NWT alerting system.

Smaller scale evacuations may also be arranged by wildfire management teams when cabins or camps are threatened by wildfire.

Evacuations of facilities -- like schools, hospitals, or specific buildings – may also be called for by agencies like the RCMP or health authorities. 

Evacuation advisories

When the risk of evacuation exists, it will be communicated to residents in the area as soon as possible.

Evacuation advisories are generally issued by the responsible local authority. The regional or territorial Emergency Management Organization may issue advisories if a community requests assistance or need to use the NWT alerting system.

There are four levels of evacuation advisories.

Evacuation Notice

What it means

This means that an emergency event, such as a wildfire, is currently in an area and may present an increased risk to a community or a remote area with the potential of endangering life and/or property. It is for information only but allows time for preparedness activities.

What to do

Residents should double check their emergency kits and review their emergency plan to prepare and monitor local conditions.

Evacuation Alert

What it means

This means you need to be ready to leave on short notice. Residents may be asked to consider voluntarily leaving the area during an evacuation alert.

What to do

Have your emergency kit and emergency plan handy in case you need to leave on short notice. Listen closely to radio, follow news sources, and listen to any directions from local emergency officials.

Evacuation Order

What it means

You are at risk and must leave the area immediately. The evacuation order may be issued without first issuing an alert if there isn’t enough warning to do so.

What to do

Leave your home immediately and proceed to your community’s assembly area. Listen to all directions from local emergency officials.

Evacuation All Clear

What it means

This means the situation is currently safe and you can return home. It’s important to stay tuned for other possible evacuation alerts or orders.

What to do

Return home while following any directions from local emergency management officials. Check for damage and return to your home safely and carefully.

Knowing when to leave

Evacuation Alerts and Evacuation Orders will tell you when to leave and where to go. Here’s how you will get them.

  • Local government information:  in most cases, local governments will be telling you whether you may need to evacuate. They will use tools like social media, posters, flyers, and door-to-door notices. Follow their social media pages and listen to local emergency officials.
  • NWT Alert: will be used during widespread emergencies to broadcast emergency messages across radio, television, and cellphones. Community governments can also request the territorial government issue these messages on their behalf for local emergencies.

The website also provides up-to-the-minute information about public safety advisories, including those about evacuations. Download the Alertable app for your phone or keep up with the website.


  • Follow the Government of the Northwest Territories: emergency information will be posted to the territorial government’s website and social media. 
  • Listen to the radio: reports and updates from community governments will cover the potential for evacuations. Broadcasts using the NWT Alert system may also interrupt programming for evacuation alerts or orders.
  • Follow reliable news sources
    • Visit: Finding public safety and emergency updates

What to do when evacuating

Leave your home with your emergency kit

Your emergency kit will allow you and your household to have the basics to sustain you while waiting for help to arrive.

Follow instructions in evacuation alerts and orders

They will tell you where to go, and may tell you routes to avoid. Follow them closely to stay safe.

Listen to local officials

Situations change quickly during emergencies. Local officials will have the latest information. If they tell you there’s a change of plans, listen!

Check In at the Registration Location

Make sure to register with local emergency management officials at the designated location as soon as you can.

Get in touch with loved ones

People will be worried. Get in touch with your emergency contacts and loved ones to let them know you’re okay.

For questions during evacuations

Accessing assistance during an evacuation

Speak with local emergency management officials about how to access healthcare, prescriptions, social, financial, or mental health supports. They will connect you to folks who can help in your area.

If you have special needs or disabilities and need more help, talk to emergency management officials.

The NWT Help Line is available 24/7 for those who need non-emergency mental health supports.

If your situation is an emergency, call 911.

Emergency accommodations

Typical emergency accommodations during evacuations is a group shelter arrangement in a recreation or community facility. There may be additional emergency accommodations available for anyone with special needs. Speak with local emergency management officials to understand what is available and where to access them.

Alternatively, you may arrange to stay with a friend or relative outside the at-risk area. Make sure you notify local officials when you register and share your plan with your emergency contacts.

Returning home

Return home only after an Evacuation All-Clear is issued and if your house is safe to return to.

Follow directions of local officials to ensure the safe restart of utilities, remaining hazards are dealt with and for cleaning and debris management.

Water quality

In the NWT, one of the most common reason people are evacuated is due to floods. This often leads to issues with drinking water.

Stay up-to-date on public health advisories related to water quality in your area – follow any Boil Water Advisories until they are rescinded.

Assess for damage

Your home may have been damaged. Be cautious when returning, assess for damage, and contact your insurance company or a professional to arrange for necessary repairs.

Learn about your community’s emergency and evacuation plans

Communities are responsible to plan and prepare for emergencies in the community. Knowing all you can about your community’s emergency plan is important to being ready for evacuations.

Visit your local government’s website or contact them for more information

Learn more about evacuations and the territory’s emergency plan