How Do Emergency Evacuations Work? 

Understanding the Law

When there’s a flood, forest fire or other emergency, Quebec authorities sometimes need to order an evacuation. These evacuation orders need to respect certain legal requirements.

Who can order an evacuation?

The authorities can only declare a state of emergency in exceptional circumstances, like a major disaster. 

A major disaster is an event that risks serious harm to people and their property, whether it be a natural event or not. Examples of a major disaster include a flood, an earthquake or a pandemic. 

The authorities can declare a state of emergency when a major disaster requires immediate and extraordinary action to protect people’s lives, health or safety. 

What procedures do authorities need to follow? 

When a municipality or the provincial government declares a state of emergency, the law gives them emergency powers that they don’t have in normal circumstances. Ordering an evacuation is one of these emergency powers. 

However, the authorities can only order an evacuation when there is no other way to protect people. They must also make sure that evacuated people have somewhere to stay and are kept safe during the evacuation order. 

Municipalities are required to create evacuation procedures. These procedures must include

  • the names and contact information of the people who approve and coordinate evacuations, 
  • how the authorities will communicate evacuation notices, 
  • how they will transport evacuated people, 
  • how they will do a census of evacuated people, and 
  • how they will monitor evacuated areas. 

Did you know? 

Firefighters can also order an evacuation when it’s necessary because of a fire or any other emergency. And after a fire, firefighters have the right to access the premises, restrict other people’s access to them, inspect them, photograph them, and take anything that could help them figure out what happened.