Re-Entry After an Evacuation
Evacuation of Monroe County is not a simple call. Evacuations are ordered only when officials believe that lives are in danger.
Re-entry after evacuations also is not simple and must be done in an orderly, staged manner when it is safe and there are enough services for people to return. The timeline is based upon the location and extent of damage, and how quickly conditions can be made safe.
Hurricanes bring storm surge, high winds and wind-borne debris that can deprive at least parts of Monroe County of electricity, running water, working sewers, passable roads, reliable emergency services and operating medical facilities. Hurricanes also limit access to food, prescriptions, fuel, working ATMs, cell service, Internet service and other supplies and services, all while presenting safety issues that the average citizen may not be prepared to handle.
Live downed wires may be electrifying thousands of feet of soaked yards and roads. Debris from destroyed or damaged homes, trailers, overturned vehicles and trees may block every road in your neighborhood.
Recent studies reveal that a larger number of people suffer severe and fatal injuries after, as opposed to during an event, from live wires, injuries received while clearing debris and other avoidable complications.
Protocol for Re-Entry
Monroe County Emergency Management Department has an established protocol for re-entry that takes into account public safety. If followed, this system will allow residents to return to their homes with as little delay as possible and with a considerable reduction of risk.
Immediately following a storm, essential personnel will be allowed to return to Monroe County. These responders will be tackling all hazards and physical obstacles that would prevent the safe return of residents and property owners to the Keys.
Once the major hazards and physical obstacles are made safe for the public -- this includes inspecting all bridges along U.S. 1 and making repairs to major road damage -- a second tier of essential personnel will be allowed in. These personnel will need an emergency worker placard, which needs to be applied for in advance of a storm by either a business or response organization. For information about the placard program, click Placard Program.
For residents and business owners, Monroe County will open in stages after a major storm; based on the damaged or obstructed areas. Residents should obtain Re-Entry windshield stickers before evacuating. (Don't wait until a storm is brewing to obtain them.) Visitors will be allowed to enter the Florida Keys only when it is deemed appropriate by local officials.
For Hurricane Irma, there were some problems with the re-entry system. Monroe County Emergency Management led a 16-person Task Force that examined the current re-entry program. After four meetings, the group developed a 2018 Recommendation to improve the system in time for the next hurricane season.
What Should I Do and Not Do?
When an evacuation is ordered, already have a destination planned. Plan to stay at your evacuation destination until you learn that it is safe to come back. You should not congregate at checkpoints entering the Keys. It only delays the entrance of critical emergency responders and personnel.
How can I get official information about when I can return to the Keys after an evacuation?
The best way is to sign up for Monroe County Emergency Management's new Alert!Monroe. The app enables you to receive emergency alerts and information via text messages, phone calls or emails.
Official information about Re-Entry also will be posted on these other Monroe County Emergency Management outlets:
- Monroe County BOCC Facebook Page
- @MonroeCounty Twitter Account
- Monroe County TV (Channel 99 on Comcast, Channel 76 on AT&T U-Verse
Monroe County Emergency Hotline
- Residents also can call: 1-800-955-5504