Everything you've always wanted to know about hurricanes but were afraid to ask: Evacuation

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Kristina Newton
  • 1st Special Operations Wing Public Affairs
Editor's note: This is part three in a five-part series on hurricane preparedness.

A hurricane is 48 hours from making landfall and it's projected to bring winds in excess of 115 mph. This is now a category three hurricane. You are given the order to evacuate but what does that mean?

Many will wonder how far they can travel and in what direction? And how are they supposed to pay for what may turn out to be a two-week, unplanned vacation? It turns out the base has that all covered.

When a hurricane reaches a certain strength, the installation commander makes a decision on whether or not people should evacuate; this decision will be released in the form of an evacuation order.

"Basically, the evacuation order instructs all base personnel as to when they are authorized to evacuate," said Capt. Christopher Dykstra, 1st Special Operations Wing Judge Advocate chief of general law. "In addition, it gives as much information as possible to when the hurricane will make landfall, gives instructions for where personnel can evacuate and lastly, how they will be compensated for the evacuation."

The evacuation order will be distributed through the Unit Control Centers and posted on the official Hurlburt Field website.

Captain Dykstra also points out that entitlements will not start until the evacuation order is given and implemented.

"So for example, if your family wanted to evacuate before the implementation of the order, they would not receive per diem until the effective date listed on the order," he said.

The system for acquiring that money is also fairly simple.

"Personnel who have been issued the new controlled spend account card will receive an automatic load onto their cards, the amount of which will be published in the evacuation order," said Senior Airman Joseph Forcucci, 1st Special Operations Comptroller Squadron financial management flight. "All others are authorized to use their government travel cards."

Airman Forcucci explained that active-duty personnel and their dependents that don't have access to a CSA or GTC can apply for a cash advance through their commander or first sergeant. He also cautioned that expenses over the allowed per diem rate will not be reimbursed.

"If the entitlement is $75 per day and you choose to stay in a $120 hotel, that extra $45 is coming out of your pocket," Airman Forcucci said. "Although, if you have two covered people, for example the member and their spouse, they could spend up to $150."

Remember, not all evacuations are the same. Here is a small breakdown of what the evacuation status means for service members and their dependents.

Voluntary Evacuation
  • Non-mission essential personnel will be released from duty
  • Civilians may take liberal leave
  • Will not receive any reimbursement
Recommended Evacuation
  • Non-mission essential personnel will be released from duty
  • Civilians will be placed on administrative leave (non-chargeable)
  • Will not receive any reimbursement
Mandatory Evacuation
  • Non-mission critical personnel will be released from duty and mission critical personnel will remain on duty at the evacuation location
  • Civilians will be placed on administrative leave (non-chargeable)
  • Mileage, lodging and meals will be reimbursed. The active-duty member and all dependents 12 years of age or older will receive the full per diem rate, to include lodging and meals, while children under 12 will receive half of that. Members are encouraged to keep all receipts to ensure they are reimbursed for covered costs.

When the crisis has passed, the installation commander will terminate the evacuation, and all members will be notified by their units that they are to return.

As always, some key things to remember about this hurricane season are to have a plan, have a kit and continue to monitor the weather so there are no surprises when the evacuation order is given. For more information on hurricanes and hurricane survival, visit the Hurlburt Field hurricane page at www.hurlburt.af.mil/library/hurricane.