Sunday, March 17, 2019

Sheltering In Place

A chemical plant fire has had Deer Park, Texas residents sheltering in place all day.  For those who don't know what this entails, generally an event happens (like a chemical spill, a train derailment where toxic substances have been released, active shooter, SWAT barricade situation, a radiological release, etc) and authorities issue a shelter in place notice for residents in the area (you may get a reverse 911 call or hear this on the TV/radio).  These situations often happen with no notice so people need to be ready to shelter in place immediately (not after they go to the store or go to the bank or go to the gas station) by doing the following:

  • Immediately go into your home or other building as quickly as possible.
  • If you are in your vehicle, you may need to shelter in your vehicle.
  • Don't try to go to collect your kids from school or your SO from work as they will need to shelter in place where they are.
  • Be sure to bring your pets inside with you.
  • Close and lock all windows and doors.
  • Turn off all lights and close drapes/window coverings.
  • Shut off your HVAC system to avoid pulling outside air into your home.
  • Listen to your radio/TV/social media (from the fire department, police department, department of emergency management, etc) and see if they are giving specific information about what to do.
  • Be prepared to not leave your home for an extended period of time (this means having stockpiled food, water, and supplies in your home AT ALL TIMES).
  • Be prepared to stay in your safe room and seal the room if told to do so; this means having scissors, duct tape, and sheet plastic on hand to seal all windows, vents, electrical outlets, and doors.
  • If you must stay in a sealed room, bring everything into the room that you would need including food, water, battery-operated radio, medication, charging cords, etc.
  • While you technically want the room sealed in some circumstances, be aware that you may eventually need to let outside air into the room so everyone doesn't suffocate if the room is tightly sealed.
  • Have PPEs on hand as well.  These include goggles, face masks, gloves, even protective suits and booties if needed.
  • Bring books, games, and other entertainment options to your safe room to keep everyone occupied.
  • Drink bottled water until given the all clear, and eat food that doesn't need to be cooked while sheltering in place (water sources can be contaminated, and you don't want to use a combustion cooking appliance with no ventilation).
  • Depending on the reason why you are sheltering in place, you may need to determine your best course of action (if a barricaded shooter is on the west side of your home, shelter yourself away from the action in a room, preferably in the basement or on the east side of your home, since high-velocity rounds can easily go through siding and sheetrock.
  • Keep your bug out bag on hand; depending on how the situation evolves, you may be told the shelter in place order is lifted and all is well or you may be told to evacuate the area immediately; always be able to evacuate on a moment's notice.
  • Follow all instructions provided by emergency managers.
  • Be prepared to do all of the above at your place of work; for children at school, the school should have a shelter in place plan (know what this is for your own piece of mind).

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