Shelter in Place

Sheltering-in-Place is a standard protective action utilized in Emergency Management during an accident or event in which hazardous materials have been released into the atmosphere. You may, at some time, be instructed by local officials to ‘Shelter-in-Place’ to reduce your exposure to some type of hazardous materials in the air. The purpose is to create as airtight as possible enclosures to prevent the hazardous material from reaching the enclosure’s occupants.

The following are steps to be taken when instructed to ‘Shelter-in-Place’:

  • If instructed, you should immediately go indoors.
  • Close and lock all doors and windows. Locking is preferred since it generally ensures that the door or window is shut tight.
  • Turn off all air handling systems such as window fans, kitchen & bath exhaust fans, air conditioners, and other sources of outside air. Shut off clothes dryers and seal exhaust vent.
  • Close the fireplace flue if it is not in use. (A structure with a burning fire in the fireplace is not a good candidate for sheltering-in-place.)
  • Seal off any cracks that could cause leakage to the outside.
  • Keep pets indoors.
  • If you have livestock, shelter them, also. Provide them with stored feed and water from a covered source.
  • Go to an above-ground room with the fewest windows and doors.
  • Take your Family Disaster Kit with you.
  • If you are traveling in a motor vehicle, close the windows and air vents. Turn off the heater and air conditioner. Keep the radio tuned to an Emergency Alert Station.
  • Go inside a nearby building. If none is available, leave the area immediately.
  • Continue to monitor your Emergency Alert Station and other media for official messages and instructions.
  • Stay inside until officials say otherwise. If you go outside, cover your nose and mouth with a folded damp cloth. Persons with respiratory disorders should not go out at all.
  • If sheltering-in-place is recommended during school hours, children will be sheltered right in the school building and cared for by school personnel.
  • Do not use your telephone unless in need of special assistance.

Sources: Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts Local Emergency Planning Committee (LEPC) Handbook