Chemical Agents: Facts About Sheltering in Place
"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
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
battery-powered radio, and extra batteries for both.
- Duct tape and scissors.
- Towels and plastic sheeting.
- A working telephone.
people will know if they need to shelter in place
- People will
hear from the local police, emergency coordinators, or government on radio
and television if they need to shelter in place..
- If there is a
"code red" or "severe" terror alert, people should pay attention to
radio and television broadcasts to know right away whether a
shelter-in-place alert is announced for their area.
- If people are
away from their shelter-in-place location when a chemical event occurs, they
should follow the instructions of emergency coordinators to find the nearest
shelter. If children are at school, they will be sheltered there. Unless
instructed to do so, parents should not try to get to the school to bring
their children home.
What to do
act quickly and follow the instructions of their local emergency coordinators.
Every situation can be different, so local emergency coordinators might have
special instructions to follow. In general, do the following:
- Go inside as quickly as possible.
- If there
is time, shut and lock all outside doors and windows. Locking them may
provide a tighter seal against the chemical. Turn off the air conditioner or
heater. Turn off all fans, too. Close the fireplace damper and any other
place that air can come in from the outside.
- Go in the shelter-in-place room and shut the door.
- Tape plastic
over any windows in the room. Use duct tape around the windows and doors and
make an unbroken seal. Use the tape over any vents into the room and seal
any electrical outlets or other openings. Sink and toilet drain traps should
have water in them (you can use the sink and toilet as you normally would).
Push a wet towel up against the crack between the door and the floor to seal
it. If it is necessary to drink water, drink the stored water, not water
from the tap.
- Turn on the radio. Keep a telephone close at hand, but don't use it unless there is a serious emergency.
this way should keep people safer than if they are outdoors. They will most
likely not be in the shelter for more than a few hours. People should listen to
the radio for an announcement indicating that it is safe to leave the shelter.
How people can get more information about sheltering in place
People can contact one of the following:
- State and
local health departments
- Centers for
Disease Control and Prevention Public Response Hotline (CDC)
Response Hotline (CDC)
Preparedness and Response Web site (http://www.bt.cdc.gov/)
Public Inquiry c/o BPRP
Bioterrorism Preparedness and Response Planning
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
1600 Clifton Road
Atlanta, GA 30333
This fact sheet is based on CDC's best current information. It may be updated as new
information becomes available.
This information has been provided with the kind permission of the Centers For Disease Control (www.cdc.gov).
Last Editorial Review: 4/2/2003