Sheltering in Place

Sheltering in Place

Sheltering in place is a defensive action that building occupants can take to protect themselves against airborne hazards originating outdoors, and for which there is forewarning. A shelter is a predetermined interior room or area of the building, which – with special provisions – can provide a barrier to protect the occupants from the external environment.

Additional Considerations:

Occupants cannot be forced to shelter-in-place. Therefore, it is important to develop your shelter-in-place plan with occupants to maximize the cooperation of everyone with the shelter plan. Determine if all occupants will shelter or if some will leave the building before shelter procedures are put in place.

Develop an Accountability System

You should know, to the best of your ability, who is in your building and where they are if an emergency develops. Visitors should be made aware of your decision to shelter in place if advised by emergency management officials. Buildings alone can provide protection to a varying degree, but are limited and effective only under certain conditions. Whether at home, in the workplace, or in an office or dormitory setting, sheltering in place is similar, and the basic steps remain the same:

Basic Steps

  • Quickly shut and lock all windows and doors. Locking windows and doors creates a better seal to keep out airborne contaminants as well as preventing inadvertent entry. Use duct tape to seal all cracks around the door(s) and any vents into the room. Write down the names of everyone in the room, and call your schools’ designated emergency contact to report who is in the room with you. Due to the varying nature of buildings and ventilating systems, we do not recommend the use of encapsulation methods such as plastic sheeting.
  • Turn off all air handling equipment (heating, ventilation, and/or air conditioning, both supply and exhaust). Close the fireplace damper, if pertinent. Have employees familiar with your building’s mechanical systems turn off all fans, heating, and air conditioning systems. Some systems automatically provide for exchange of inside air with outside air – these systems, in particular, need to be turned off, sealed, or disabled. 
  • Gather essential disaster supplies, such as nonperishable food, bottled water, battery-powered radios, first-aid supplies, flashlights, batteries, duct tape, plastic sheeting, and plastic garbage bags. If you are told there is danger of explosion, close the window shades, blinds, or curtains. This will provide some measure of protection from shards of flying glass.
  • Go to a predetermined sheltering room (or rooms) if rooms are designated in your area. Interior rooms with no windows, above ground level, are preferred since gases and fluids usually have a heavier density than air and accumulate at lower levels. The room(s) should have adequate space for everyone to be able to sit. Avoid overcrowding by selecting several rooms if necessary.
  • Turn on a TV or radio and listen for further instructions. When the “all clear” is announced, open windows and doors, turn on ventilation systems and go outside until the building’s air has been exchanged with the now clean outdoor air.
  • Unless there is an imminent threat, ask student, faculty, employees, and visitors to call their emergency contact to let them know where they are and that they are safe. It is ideal to have a hard-wired telephone in the room(s) you select. Cellular telephone equipment may be overwhelmed or damaged during an emergency. Bring everyone into the room. Call emergency contacts and have the phone available if you need to report a life-threatening condition. Shut and lock the door.
  • Some housing units and other areas are designated shelter areas. If you wish to designate an area as a shelter area please contact the Director of Safety & Security.

Shelter-In-Place Kits

  • One gallon of drinking water per person per day. At least a 72 hour supply of drinking water is needed.
  • Food that will not easily perish; ready-to-eat foods
  • Manual can opener and eating utensils (forks, spoons, knives, plates, cups)
  • First-aid kit
  • Flashlight and extra batteries
  • Battery-operated AM/FM radio and extra batteries (you can also buy wind-up radios that do not require batteries.)
  • Phone that does not rely on electricity (just plugs into a phone jack)
  • A whistle to signal for help
  • Iodine tablets or one quart of unscented bleach and an eyedropper (disinfect water ONLY if directed to do so by health officials. To disinfect water with bleach, add 8 drops of bleach per gallon of water.)
  • Personal hygiene items, such as hand sanitizer, soap, toothbrush and toothpaste,, toilet paper and hygienic wipes.
  • Plastic sheeting, scissors, duct tape
  • Trash bags and other tools

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