Disaster & Terrorism: Shelter in Place

What is it? Why would I need one?

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There has been a lot of talk on the news about a shelter in place. A shelter in place is when you stay inside your home or office to protect yourself. More often than not, in an emergency it is safer to stay where you are than to leave. Unless instructed by authorities to evacuate, stay sheltered in a pre-determined safe location in your home or workplace to wait out a hazardous materials release or unsafe conditions due to a natural disaster.

The shelter in place's purpose is to provide protection and shelter for up to three days if necessary. In a natural disaster such as flood, storm, or earthquake, food and supplies are necessary. If you are advised by local officials to "shelter in place," what they mean is for you to remain inside your home or office and protect yourself there. Close and lock all windows and exterior doors. Turn off all fans, heating and air conditioning systems. Close the fireplace damper. Get your disaster supplies kit, and make sure the radio is working. Go to an interior room without windows that's above ground level.

In the event of a chemical spill or bio-terrorism or chemical terrorism the goal is to seal you and your family off from the outside environment with food and water until the air has had time to clear. In the case of a chemical threat, an above-ground location is preferable because some chemicals are heavier than air, and may seep into basements even if the windows are closed. Use duct tape and plastic sheeting to seal all cracks around the doors and vents into the room.

Shelter in Place Supplies

  1. Disaster Supply Kit which includes food, water, first aid kit and more
  2. Duct tape, scissors and
  3. Plastic sheeting to cover and seal doors, windows, air conditioners and ventilation systems

Listen to your radio or television until you are told all is safe or you are told to evacuate. Local officials may call for evacuation in specific areas at greatest risk in your community

If you are asked to shelter in place, here is a list of what to do:

  • First, remain calm.
  • If you are outdoors go inside immediately (an interior room without windows is preferable). Do not call 911 unless you are reporting an immediate life-threatening situation. Do not attempt to get your children from their school or day care center. Staff members are trained to protect your children and will institute shelter-in-place procedures where they are located.
  • Next, close all windows and doors. Place pre-cut plastic sheeting over windows, and tape in place.
  • Close all outside air vents. Turn off cooling, heating or ventilating systems. Cover cracks under doors with damp towels. If you have a fireplace, put out the fire and close the damper.
  • Tape cracks and other openings such as electrical outlets and cable television outlets for extra protection. Keep pets indoors.
  • Lastly, listen carefully to a portable radio for instructions from emergency officials.