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Should Location of Public Shelters Be Disclosed?

Posted in: Man Made Disasters Started by

Should Location of Public Shelters Be Disclosed?

Today, I attended the second day of a very informative workshop dealing with issues of regional evacuation planning within Northern Nevada. The presenter, Jonathan Best of Disaster By Design LLC, shed light on the challenges of dealing with issues of disclosure of information before and during disasters.


The focus of the second was on issues like critical issues like crisis communication, evacuation routes and public shelters. One issue that caught my personal attention is this:

Is it Ok for emergency management authorities not to disclose the location of public shelters and potential evacuation routes to the general public?

Upon reflecting on the issue, I found reasons both in favor and not in favor of disclosing the location of shelters and evacuation routes.

Based on the public ‘s right to know, one may argue that:

  • It is in the interest of the public to know the location of these places and routes regardless,
  • Whoever refuses to disclose these places of public interest should be willing to face consequence in event of a disaster
  • It is the absolute of the public to be informed in a democratic and pluralistic society

On the other hand, one may also argue that it is not a wise thing to disclose because:

  • It is in the interest of the public to protect this information because terrorist may abuse such information
  • It allows authorities to make adjustments depending on the kind of disaster that occurs
  • Non disclosure enables the citizens to follow instructions from authorities and not rush to shelters- perhaps creating issue.evacuation-route2

According to the workshop leader, Mr Best, issues of disclosure vary from place to place. He explained that he believes the issue is best resolved at a local level.

Please share with us what you think. 

Should public authorities disclose or not disclose the location of public shelters and evacuation routes to the general public prior to disasters? Leave a comment. Thanks!

Gideon F. For-mukwai, CEM

Reno, Nevada Emergency Management Blogger