Emergency Sheltering During COVID-19

Emergency Sheltering During COVID-19

Wildfires, earthquakes and other disasters can strike at any time, including in the midst of the COVID-19 outbreak.  Public safety officials are working cooperatively across agencies to implement proactive strategies for emergency  sheltering to keep the community safe during the pandemic.

Emergency sheltering in a COVID-19 environment presents new challenges. These challenges will require adaptability and flexibility from all Santa Barbara County residents to ensure we are ready. Click here for the Emergency Sheltering During COVID-19 bilingual handout.

Family with being directed to a rally point

Care and Reception Sites

In the event an evacuation warning or evacuation order is issued, a care and reception site may be established to receive evacuees and provide information, assistance, and screening.  If a care and reception site is designated, it may be set up in one of two ways:

        • A parking lot. Evacuees arriving by car line up in the parking lot and are to remain in their vehicle during the screening. If arriving by foot or bicycle, or you are dropped off by a taxi or ride-share service (e.g., Uber), maintain physical distancing and stay 6 feet away from other people.
        •  A brick-and-mortar location. Individuals are to maintain physical distancing and stay 6 feet away from other people.

In the case of an evacuation warning, a care and reception site may not yet be identified.  Be ready to leave at a moment’s notice.  Do not wait for the announcement of a care and reception site or an evacuation order to leave if you feel threatened by the incident.  Self-evacuate if you feel that you may be in danger.


ScreeningInitial Screening

Evacuees arriving at a care and reception site will be screened for COVID-19 symptoms and exposure by Public Health or other qualified personnel.  Based on screening results, individuals will be routed or transported to the most appropriate shelter site.

COVID-19 positive individuals under a Health Officer Order and members of their household that evacuate should inform screeners of their status.

Any individuals who are screened and identified as COVID-19 positive or symptomatic, and/or have been exposed to COVID-19, will not be sheltered with the general population.  Individuals who are COVID-19 positive or have been exposed to COVID-19 will be sheltered at a location that most appropriately meets their needs.


People going to a shelter

Shelter Modifications

Emergency shelter personnel will follow Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) official guidance, local Health Officer orders, and best practices to protect shelter guests and workers and reduce the transmission of COVID-19.  Modifications to shelter operations include:

        • Temperature checks, ongoing screening, and assessment of shelter guests and workers for COVID-19 symptoms.  Shelter workers will use personal protective equipment (PPE) when conducting temperature checks and screening.
        • Increased cleaning and sanitation according to CDC and public health guidelines.
        • Individual meals distributed (no buffet set-up or lines).
        • Cots spaced further apart to allow for physical distancing.
        • Face coverings will be required (a requirement at American Red Cross shelter sites).
        • Various types of facilities and settings to meet the needs of evacuees will be considered.


Initial Screening

Make a Plan, Update Your Emergency Kit Today

Now is the time to update your emergency plan and kit!  Talk to your family and friends about evacuation and sheltering plans during the pandemic.  Consider what additional supplies you may need to add to your emergency go-kit, such as face coverings and hand sanitizer.


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Sign-up for ReadySBC Alerts

Stay informed and receive local alerts, including evacuation and sheltering information during an emergency.  Click here to sign up for ReadySBC Alerts today.

Aware & Prepare Alerts is now ReadySBC Alerts. Those who previously registered for Aware & Prepare Alerts will continue to receive alerts and do not need to re-register for ReadySBC Alerts.

FAQs: Emergency Sheltering During COVID-19

A: If possible, use a taxi or ride-share service (e.g., Uber, Lyft) to transport you to the care and reception site or shelter. If you are unable to coordinate a ride, or you do not have transportation, contact 2-1-1 or the Santa Barbara County Call Center (when operational) at 833-688-5551.  If you are in immediate danger, call 911.

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 2-1-1 or a paratransit provider near you:

Contact your local transit provider to discuss alternative transportation options.

A: 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 care and reception site once established.

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

A: 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.

A: During an emergency, it may be challenging to locate and coordinate an interpreter on short notice.  Efforts will be made to provide interpreters and information in non-English languages as soon as possible.

A: Do not leave animals at home.  Small and large animal evacuation and sheltering locations will be announced when evacuation warnings and orders are issued, or soon thereafter.  Have food, medications, and documentation for your animals ready to go.  Ensure that your animals are leashed, in crates, or otherwise secured when at rally points.

Animals can accompany evacuees to the care and reception site, but may not be able to come inside.  Some shelter locations may be able to accommodate service animals or small animals.  Inform care and reception site screeners that you have a service animal or small animal to ensure you are routed to the most appropriate shelter site available.

For assistance with small or large animal evacuation, contact the Santa Barbara County Animal Control Evacuation Assistance Line at 805-681-4332 (this line is active only during evacuation emergencies).

A: Alternate locations that you may usually go to during an evacuation – such as beaches, parks, and campgrounds – may have limited or closed parking due to current restrictions.  Closures change frequently and may not be up to date on mapping applications (e.g., Google Maps, Waze) or websites.

Contact Office of Emergency Management

4408 Cathedral Oaks Rd., Santa Barbara, CA 93110
Phone: 805-681-5526
UPDATE Tsunami Advisory has been cancelled
Adviso de Tsunami ha sido cancelada