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Know Your Evacuation Routes For Emergency Departures

Release date: 
September 19, 2014
Release Number: 

Eatontown, N.J.-- When an incident reaches the point that it’s unsafe for people to remain in the immediate area, getting everyone evacuated as safely and quickly as possible becomes crucial. One of the most – if not the most – important part of an evacuation is figuring out how to get out of the affected area.

Coastal Evacuation Route Signs Posted on the Roadway
Coastal Evacuation Route Signs Are Posted Along the Roadway
Coastal Evacuation Routes exist in states that border the Atlantic Ocean and Gulf of Mexico. They are often denoted by signs featuring some combination of blue and white. In New Jersey, they are white signs with a blue circle on them, filled with white text. Because of New Jersey’s small size and its proximity to water on three sides, many of the state’s major highways also serve as coastal evacuation routes. Most of New Jersey’s routes come from the shore (south and west) and move inward, mainly westbound.

The Garden State Parkway in Cape May County, for example, is the main evacuation route out of the county to the north, along with Routes 47 and 50. Also in Cape May and Atlantic counties, the barrier islands have multiple access points connecting the towns on those islands with the Parkway and other roads headed inland.

The Atlantic City Expressway is the main east-west route through the southern part of New Jersey. When Hurricane Sandy arrived in New Jersey, state officials reversed traffic on the Atlantic City Expressway, forcing all traffic on the highway to go west, away from the coast.                                                                                                                            

Unlike the barrier islands in Cape May and Atlantic counties, there is only one way on and off of Long Beach Island – Route 72. Route 37 serves the southern half of the Barnegat Peninsula in Ocean County, and Route 35 leads to access to inland roads in the northern half, including Routes 88 and 34, as well as Routes 36 and (indirectly) 18 in Monmouth County.

Getting to the main routes can sometimes involve traveling through residential areas and on lower-capacity streets and roads that can get crowded. recommends keeping your car’s gas tank at least half full in case you have to leave immediately.

Once an evacuation order has been issued, leave as soon as possible to avoid traffic congestion and ensure access to routes. Have a battery-powered radio to listen for emergencies and road condition changes. During Sandy, not only was contraflow lane reversal (alteration of traffic patterns on a controlled-access highway so all vehicles travel in the same direction) implemented on the Atlantic City Expressway, but the southbound Garden State Parkway was closed to traffic.

During evacuations, people should follow instructions from local authorities on which roads to take to get to the main evacuation routes. Don’t take shortcuts, as they may be blocked. Know more than one nearby evacuation route in case the closest or most convenient one is blocked or otherwise unpassable. Don’t drive into potentially hazardous areas, such as over or near other bodies of water during a hurricane or other flood event. Barrier island residents should take the quickest possible route to the mainland.

Emergency evacuations are stressful moments. But knowing where you’re going and how to get there can help make the whole experience a little easier to handle.

Evacuation routes for the state of New Jersey are posted on the New Jersey Office of Emergency Management website. Go to // to find the route for your region.

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Last Updated: 
January 3, 2018 - 12:06