Shelter-in-Place? What is that?

During an emergency, you might be asked to shelter-in-place. Do you know what that means? Are you, and your family members, ready to do it?

Shelter-in-place is a method of protection often utilized when hazardous materials have been released into the atmosphere. It might also be used during dangerous storms like hurricanes, when it is safer for you to be home, than it is for you to travel to a temporary shelter.

How Will You Know? -- You may hear about a shelter-in-place order through a number of sources. These include:

  • The Emergency Alert System (EAS) - information provided on the radio and television.
  • The Wireless Emergency Alert (WEA) - information provide through a text-like message to cellular phones.
  • NOAA Weather Alert Radio.
  • Automated Telephone Calling System, if your community has one.
  • News Media.
  • Door-to-Door, where police or volunteers go door-to-door notifying residents of emergencies.
  • U.S. Coast Guard Marine Broadcast.
  • Pagers or TTYs, if you have signed up for an alerting service.

When you are told to shelter-in-place, you should:

  • Immediately go indoors. If you are in your vehicle and are very close to home, your office, or a public building, go there immediately.
  • Close and lock all doors and windows. Locking is preferred since it generally ensures that the door or window is shut tight.
  • Close drapes, blinds and window shades.
  • Protect windows with pre-drilled plywood sheets, if there is time.
  • Go to a room in the center of your home with the fewest windows and doors.
  • It is ideal to have a hard-wired telephone in the room you select. Cellular telephone equipment may be overwhelmed during an emergency.
  • Remember that emergency workers will need their lines for emergency use. Call your county Emergency Management Office if you need more information. Call your local fire or police department (911) ONLY if you have an emergency. News announcements should tell you where to call for additional information.
  • Keep pets indoors. Make sure you have additional food and water supplies for them.
  • If you have livestock, shelter them, also. Provide them with stored feed and water.
  • Continue to monitor your Emergency Alert Station (EAS) and other television and radio stations for official messages and instructions.
  • Stay inside until officials say otherwise.

In case of a hazardous materials emergency

If hazardous materials are released, there are some special steps you can take to minimize harm:

  • Extinguish any open flames, including pilot lights and wood burning appliances.
  • Turn off all heating, air conditioning, and air handling equipment.
  • Close all fireplace dampers.
  • If there are gaps in your windows or doors, seal with tape or damp towels.
  • When choosing a room in the event of a hazardous materials release do not choose a basement room. Since most fumes are heavier then air, a low lying room will not be as effective.
  • Have a radio (preferably two: one electric and one battery-powered) in the ‘shelter’ room you’ve selected. Know the emergency alert system station for your area and tape the station numbers onto the side of each radio.