“Shelter-in-place” means to take immediate shelter where you are—at home, work, school, or in between. It may also mean “seal the room;” in other words, take steps to prevent outside air from coming in. This is because local authorities may instruct you to “shelter-in-place” if chemical or radiological contaminants are released into the environment. It is important to listen to TV or radio to understand whether the authorities wish you to merely remain indoors or to take additional steps to protect yourself and your family.
Choose a room in advance for your shelter. The best room is one with as few windows and doors as possible. A large room, preferably with a water supply, is desirable—something like a master bedroom that is connected to a bathroom. 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.
Contact your workplaces, your children’s schools, nursing homes where you may have family and your local town or city officials to find out what their plans are for “shelter-in-place.” If you have family in a nursing home or school when the emergency occurs and a shelter-in-place order is in effect, do not proceed to these locations as you may endanger yourself and these facilities will not allow entry or exit of persons in order to protect those inside. Those persons will be accommodated based on that facilities emergency operations plan.
Develop your own family emergency plan so that every family member knows what to do. Practice it regularly.
Assemble a disaster supplies kit that includes emergency water and food supplies and take it to your safe zone.
• Close and lock all windows and exterior doors.
• If you are told there is danger of explosion, close the window shades, blinds, or curtains.
• Turn off all fans, heating and air conditioning systems. Close the fieplace damper.
• Have access to a radio or television to continue monitoring the situation for additional instructions.
• Bring your pets with you, and be sure to bring additional food and water supplies for them.
• It is ideal to have a hard-wired telephone in the room you select. Call your emergency contact and have the phone available if you need to report a life-threatening condition. Cellular telephone equipment may be overwhelmed or damaged during an emergency.
• Use duct tape and plastic sheeting heavier than food wrap to seal all leaks around the door and any vents or fans into the room.
• Keep listening 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 while asking others to shelter-in-place.
In Your Vehicle:
If you are driving a vehicle and hear advice to shelter-in-place on the radio, take these steps:
• If you are very close to home, your office, or a public building, go there immediately and go inside. Follow the shelter-in-place recommendations for the place you pick described above.
• If you are unable to get to a home or building quickly and safely, pull over to the side of the road. Stop your vehicle in the safest place possible. If it is sunny outside, it is preferable to stop under a bridge or in a shady spot, to avoid being overheated. (If a tornado is approaching do not park under a bridge.)
• Turn off the engine. Close windows and vents.
• If possible, seal the heating/air conditioning vents with duct tape.
• Listen to the radio regularly for updated advice and instructions.
• Stay where you are until you are told it is safe to get back on the road. Be aware that some roads may be closed or detoured. Follow the directions of law enforcement officials.
If you need or are instructed to seal the room you are in, follow the instructions in the following diagram: