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Pictogram for a meeting point after an evacuation

Evacuation or evacuation ( Latin evacuare , to empty out ') is the "clearing of an area of ​​people". Sometimes the term “evacuation operation” is used synonymously.


Evacuation exercise in the Euerwangtunnel on the new Ingolstadt – Nuremberg line
"Evacuated Poles on the way to the train station", Schwarzenau near Gnesen, 1939, propaganda recording, Reich Commissioner for the Consolidation of German Ethnicity

Evacuation is the clearing of areas. The term is usually found in connection with danger spots such as disaster areas, for example floods , fires or bomb alarms. If it is a building, the term evacuation is also used . The time it takes to evacuate is called the evacuation period . The terms evacuation and evacuation are often used synonymously. Some institutions, such as the former Federal Office for Civil Protection , understand an "evacuation" to be a planned process, while the term "evacuation" is used for the unplanned evacuation of areas.

The word evacuate is used on the one hand for areas, rooms, settlements, etc. On the other hand, the use for people and animals, although it actually corresponds to evisceration in the sense of the Latin word origin , is also widely used in connection with emergency evacuations and, according to the Duden, is also correct.

    • a. move away from his (living) place because of imminent danger, relocate (temporarily)
    • b. evacuate by evacuating.
    • (Technology) (in a cavity or similar) create a vacuum.

Up until the early 20th century, the term was used to mean the clearing of a place by troops and, in a narrower sense, the transfer of the wounded from field hospitals to regular hospitals.

Since the Second World War, the widespread removal of people and material from cities and areas threatened by bombing or combat operations to safe areas has been referred to as evacuation.

Another meaning was added to the term by the National Socialists in World War II. Evacuating served, like the synonymously used terms special treatment , final solution and resettlement , as a cover name for deportation and killing of people (see evacuation march , factory action ) .

Legal classification

Officially ordered evacuations are mandatory for the citizens concerned. Even adults of legal age are not given a choice whether they want to comply with the evacuation order or whether they want to take the risk associated with remaining in the dangerous situation at their own risk. Anyone who refuses to leave the affected building or area can be taken out of the danger zone by the police using means of coercion, even against their will. This state coercion, which temporarily restricts basic rights , is based on general law to avert danger or police and is legally permissible if there is a significant current risk for the respective citizen. Legally speaking, it is in an evacuation to a sum of dismissals .

Evacuation plans

In areas particularly at risk from disasters (e.g. in Naples , which is threatened by the Vesuvius volcano ), there are evacuation plans that are intended to enable timely and reliable evacuation and avoid panic . They are often part of alarm plans or disaster control plans . There are as yet no reliable early warning systems for earthquakes and volcanic eruptions . Simulations , escape plans and evacuation exercises (test alarms) are methods of preparing a possible evacuation.

Evacuation plans deal with the process; they are also part of preventive, organizational (non-structural, operational) fire protection .

Process of evacuations

Schematically, the evacuation process can be divided into the following phases:

  1. Discovery of the danger
    Report the danger to ...
    Notifying the safety organizations - fire brigade - rescue
  2. Decision about evacuation by ...
  3. Triggering the alarm by ... from where?
  4. Reaction of the people to the alarm
  5. Movement of people on foot to an assembly point
  6. Transportation of people by vehicles to a safe place.

Can also be simplified

  • Running time ( movement time ) - to reach the collection point or a safe place - and
  • Alerting and reaction time ( pre movement time )


Evacuation of areas

Evacuation of areas may become necessary on the basis of disasters (natural or man-made). The most important natural events that can make the evacuation of entire areas necessary are:

  • volcanic eruptions
  • Floods
  • Tsunamis
  • earthquake
  • Hurricanes

Man-made events that may require evacuation include:

  • war
  • Industrial accidents
  • Traffic accidents (especially for land, sea and air vehicles)
  • Fires
  • Bomb threats / ordnance disposal
  • terrorist attacks
  • Nuclear contamination

The evacuation of entire areas is a civil protection measure .


During the Second World War, mothers and children were evacuated from the cities of the German Reich threatened by the bombing war with the Kinderlandverschickung , whereby the term evacuation was avoided in the National Socialist language.

Evacuation of buildings

The evacuation of buildings is generally part of the evacuation of areas and is therefore triggered by the same events. First buildings are evacuated, then possibly entire districts, cities and districts.

The individual strategy for evacuating buildings was examined by Abrahams: The independent variables form the complexity of the building and the mobility of the people (physical performance, walking difficulties) and the dependent variable is the strategy. With decreasing mobility and increasing complexity of the building, the strategy changes from “leaving quickly” to “leaving slowly” and “moving to a safe place” (e.g. a stairwell) to “staying at the place and waiting for rescue”. This last strategy applies in particular to bedridden people (e.g. when evacuating hospitals) who need to be rescued by nursing staff or rescue workers.

Between the two attacks on the two towers of the World Trade Center (see 9/11 ) and the collapse of the towers, 17,410 people (around 87 percent of those who were there) were able to leave the two buildings. In the south tower, loudspeaker announcements initially asked people to remain calm and stay at their workplaces. Probably more people would have survived if asked to leave the building immediately. The second plane hit 17 minutes after the first. The south tower collapsed 56 minutes and the north tower completely collapsed 102 minutes after each impact. This killed 2,123 people, including 343 firefighters .


Even the ancient Romans had a practical, effective approach to solving such mass phenomena known to them. The Colosseum exemplifies how you can empty a large arena with a capacity of approx. 50,000 people in an emergency in the shortest possible time. The numerous exits are fairly evenly distributed around the structure. Taking into account the knowledge that in the event of an escape, a person will strive for the exit that he can best assess, since he can easily call up the route from entering, the evacuation times of such a stadium are almost optimal, even according to the standards of current research.

Evacuation of ships

The main difference between evacuating buildings and evacuating ships is the ability to get to a safe place. The process on ships is comparable to that for buildings only during the first phase, the collection process. The actual evacuation into the boats or life-saving equipment (e.g. inflatable rafts) only begins after the collection phase (possibly for a collection station) has been completed. This evacuation decision may not be made by the ship's commander until then. In addition, the “move to a safe place” strategy plays a much more important role than in buildings. Collection stations are such “safe places”.

Evacuation of land and air vehicles

With regard to evacuation, land and air vehicles are partly comparable to buildings and partly to ships. Airplanes are usually evacuated via rescue slides (if necessary after the emergency landing). When ditching , these also serve as life rafts.

A test carried out with real people must prove that an approved aircraft can be evacuated within 90 seconds under difficult conditions (only emergency lighting, only half of all emergency exits). Moderate injuries are also quite common here.

The main reasons for evacuating trains are accidents and technical defects (and their consequences, e.g. smoke development, overheating after failure of the air conditioning system).

The evacuation of cable cars may require additional aids (evacuation systems).



  • British Expeditionary Force withdraws from Dunkirk in 1940 ( Operation Dynamo )
  • Voluntary evacuation of the civilian population from the Swiss border region when - especially in May 1940, in the run-up to the German campaign in the west - an invasion of Switzerland was feared
  • Evacuation of the German civilian population and wounded soldiers from East and West Prussia in January – April 1945 ( Hannibal Company )
  • Evacuation on April 30, 1975 on the occasion of the fall of Saigon ( Operation Frequent Wind )
  • On March 14, 1997, the Bundeswehr carried out its first armed evacuation operation (from Albania) - Operation Libelle
  • On February 26, 2011, the Bundeswehr evacuated 132 people from Libya with two Transall machines ( Operation Pegasus (2011) )


See also


  • Neil Gershenfeld: Mathematical Modeling. Oxford University Press, Oxford 1999.
  • P. Stollard, L. Johnson (Eds.): Design against fire: an introduction to fire safety engineering design. London / New York 1994.
  • A literature review on pedestrians and evacuation
  • Hubert Klüpfel: A Cellular Automaton Model for Crowd Movement and Egress Simulation. Dissertation, University of Duisburg-Essen, 2003. [1]
  • Tobias Kretz: Pedestrian Traffic - Simulation and Experiments. University of Duisburg-Essen, 2007. [2]
  • Michael K. Lindell, et al .: Large-scale evacuation: the analysis, modeling, and management of emergency relocation from hazardous areas. Routledge, New York 2019, ISBN 9781482259858 .

Web links

Wiktionary: Evacuation  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Pages in German

Pages in English

Individual evidence

  1. sifa-sibe.de: Myths of Entfluchtung: Problem case evacuation, The human factor , from February 17, 2014, loaded on July 30, 2019
  2. http://www.feuerwehr-ub.de/evakuierungs%C3%BCbung .
  3. ^ Duden online, Bibliographisches Institut. July 2018, accessed July 17, 2018 .
  4. Law professor on bomb clearance - Why citizens have to go. in: Online edition of the Neue Osnabrücker Zeitung, accessed on October 9, 2014.
  5. John Abrahams: Fire escape in difficult circumstances. Chapter 6, In: Stollard: Design against fire. 1994.
  6. 8.4.2: Evacuation ( English , pdf) In: Final Report on the Collapse of the World Trade Center Towers . United States Department of Commerce , Technology Administration, National Institute of Standards and Technology . P. 188ff. September 2005. Archived from the original on April 24, 2011. Retrieved on April 24, 2011.
  7. ^ US Congress Office of Technology Assessment: Aircraft evacuation testing: research and technology issues , Library of Congress, September 1993. Page 17, Limitations of full-scale demonstrations
  8. ^ Matthias Wipf: Threatened border region. The Swiss evacuation policy 1938–1945 using the example of Schaffhausen. 2014 (2nd edition), ISBN 978-3-0340-0729-0 .
  9. rp-online.de: “Foreign business trip” to Libya, June 16, 2011
  10. Return to the campsite successfully completed. Alb Bote , August 11, 2014, accessed October 21, 2014 .