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U.S. Department of State

Diplomacy in Action

Coping Strategies for Evacuees


Evacuations elicit a variety of different feelings, but the universal response to an evacuation is a sense of not being in control of one's own life. The individual feels powerless, caught in a situation which affects every aspect of life. Since this feeling is so common, the following tips are suggested as ways to gain a measure of control over the situation.

  • Make contingency plans. Decide ahead of time on a safehaven location, organize the documents to take to post, make plans for the children and have powers of attorney in order. Keep and use a copy of FLO's Evacuation Plan: Don't Leave Home Without It.
  • Plan for the long term. Evacuations average 3 - 4 months. While the length of any evacuation is difficult to predict, those who plan for a longer rather than a shorter period of time experience fewer frustrations.
  • Use resources. While in the Washington, D.C. area, take some courses at FSI's Transition Center. Consult with FLO employment staff about short-term employment. The licensed clinical social workers at the Department of State's Employee Consultation Service (or their equivalent in other agencies) may be helpful. These last two resources are available to evacuees who are not in Washington through telephone consultation.
  • Create a "normal" life. Develop as normal a routine as possible for yourself and your children. If an evacuation lasts more than a month, you may choose to put the children in school. Get them involved in activities, and get involved yourself. Pursue hobbies, do volunteer work, or take a part-time job.
  • Keep in touch. Stay in touch with fellow evacuees, with FLO, or your assigned point of contact (i.e. the Family Liaison Specialist for your agency) throughout the evacuation. You'll be up-to-date on the latest information from post, and enjoy mutual support with others in the same situation. FLO and your agency's family liaison representative phone regularly, and share with evacuees the phone numbers and addresses of other evacuees who have given such permission and any other pertinent information.

Evacuees sometimes do not return to post. They never get to say a proper good-bye. They must live with a sense of "unfinished business" about their post. Many experience an emotional loss. Most people who experience an evacuation are able to put it into perspective and go on; yet Foreign Service life never seems the same again. Experience may make evacuees more wary, and influence them to take contingency planning seriously in the future. Eventually, the memory of an evacuation becomes part of the rich tapestry of experiences, positive and negative, which make up the life of a Foreign Service family.

Information provided by the Family Liaison Office
Contact the Family Liaison Office


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