Chemical Agents: Facts About Sheltering in Place

What "sheltering in place" means

Some kinds of accidents or attacks may make going outdoors dangerous. Leaving the area might take too long or put people in harm's way. In such a case it may be safer for people to stay indoors than to go outside.

"Sheltering in place" is when people make a shelter out of the place they are in. It is a way for people to make the building as safe as possible to protect themselves until help arrives.

How to prepare to shelter in place

People should choose a room in their house or apartment for their shelter. The best room to use for the shelter is a room 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. For chemical events, this room should be as high in the structure as possible to avoid vapors (gases) that sink. This guideline is different from the sheltering-in-place technique used in tornadoes and other severe weather, when the shelter should be low in the home.

People might not be at home if the need to shelter in place ever arises, but if they are, it is good to have the following items on hand. (Ideally, all of these items should be kept in that room to save time.)

  • First Aid kit
  • Food and bottled water. One gallon of water per person in plastic bottles as well as ready-to-eat foods that will keep without refrigeration should be stored at the shelter-in-place location. If bottled water no longer is available, water in a toilet tank (not the toilet bowl) is suitable for drinking.
  • Flashlight, battery-powered radio, and extra batteries for both.
  • Duct tape and scissors.
  • Towels and plastic sheeting.
  • A working telephone.