Friday, August 3, 2007

How To: 10 Quick Steps for Sheltering in Place

Sheltering in place is most often used during chemical emergencies; this can happen near chemical plants, railroads or freeways where chemicals are being transported or in businesses that use a great deal of chemicals (factories, swimming pools, etc). To shelter in place means to basically seal yourself in your home until you receive the "all clear" to come out. Here's how you would do it:

  1. After hearing a public announcement to shelter in place, get your family and pets into your home as quickly as possible.
  2. Lock the doors, close and lock the windows, turn off the heating and/or air conditioning, turn off any fans, and close the dampers on your fireplaces.
  3. De-con in the garage if possible and have anyone who was exposed seal their clothes in a plastic bag, shower quickly and change into clean clothes (same goes for the dog or cat).
  4. Grab your emergency bags and take shelter in a secure room in your home (generally the master bedroom with an attached bathroom works well).
  5. Use plastic sheeting and duct tape to seal around all doors, windows, and outlets.
  6. Turn on the TV or portable radio and wait for instruction.
  7. You will need to have water and food that does not require heating, as you may need to stay in your shelter for a period of time. Never use cooking or heating (other than electric) appliances in a sealed room.
  8. Consider having a laptop for communications and books/games/toys available to entertain the family while you are in your shelter. Phones (both cells and land lines) should only be used for emergency calls.
  9. You should have a basic knowledge of first aid. Keep an eye on everyone and be aware of possible illness/contamination/stress related problems.
  10. When an announcement is made that the situation has been take care of and you can leave your shelter, follow any instructions given.

That is sheltering in place in a nutshell. Depending upon your situation and a variety of other factors, you may want to consider installing an air filtration system and having "gas" masks for each family member. These are, however, expensive and extreme options for most situations. A number of considerations would need to be taken into account including the fact that many air filtration systems need regular maintenance and that gas masks need to be fitted specifically to the person wearing them (also check to see how often the filter portion of the mask needs to be replaced--generally every eight hours or so).

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