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American Red Cross Shelter-in-Place Guide for hazardous

posted Mar 17, 2011, 12:18 PM by Mary Lopez

chemical, biological or radiological emergency

What Shelter-in-Place Means

In an emergency where hazardous chemical, biological or radiological contaminants are accidentally or intentionally released into the atmosphere, you may be told by local police, fire officials, emergency coordinators or elected officials to shelter-in-place. Information will be provided on TV and the radio, or on the emergency broadcast system.

Shelter-in-place is a precaution aimed to keep you safe while remaining indoors. (This is not the same as going to a shelter in case of a storm.) It means selecting a small, interior room with no or few windows, and taking refuge there. It does not mean sealing off your entire home or office building.

 

Why You May Need to Shelter-in-Place

A chemical emergency may occur anywhere hazardous materials are manufactured, stored or transported. Chemical plants are obvious sources of potential accidents. Less obvious are highways, railways and storage containers at places such as swimming pools (chlorine).

A hazardous material can be a solid, liquid or gas. You may not be able to see or smell anything but your safety could be at risk. How can you tell if there is a hazardous chemical emergency? Most often, you will be notified by the local authorities. You should take action if you notice any of the following:

·         An unusual smell or sound, such as an explosion,

·         Visible smoke, fire or a vapor cloud,

·         Skin or eye irritation,

·         Breathing difficulty.

If you are told to shelter-in-place, take your children and pets indoors immediately and follow the instructions provided below. (If your children are at school, they will be sheltered there.)  Stay tuned to TV or radio until the "all clear” message is broadcast.

 

Prepare a Shelter-in-Place Kit

Prepare a kit appropriate for the type(s) of emergencies that could occur near you. The kit should contain:

·         Duct tape for sealing cracks around doors and windows

·         Plastic (preferably precut to size) to cover windows

·         Towels

·         Battery or crank-operated AM/FM radio and flashlight and fresh batteries

·         Bottled water

·         Nonperishable food

·         Toys for young children

·         First-aid kit and medicine

Check the kit every six months to ensure that all the supplies are still there and that they are fresh. The room should have a telephone, although you should use it only for emergency calls. Otherwise, you may be taking up a line needed by emergency response officials.

Also, make sure all family members know what to do in a chemical emergency, whether they are at home, school, work or outdoors.

 

How to Shelter-in-Place

At Home: 

·         Go inside as quickly as possible.

·         Close and lock all windows and exterior doors. Locking makes a better seal.

·         Close the window shades, blinds or curtains if you are told there is danger of explosion.

·         Turn off all fans, heating and air conditioning systems.

·         Close the fireplace damper and any other place that air can come in from outside.

·         Get your family disaster supplies kit and make sure the radio or TV is working.

·         Go to an interior room without windows that's above ground level. An above-ground location is preferable because some chemicals are heavier than air, and may seep into basements even if the windows are              closed.

·         Bring your pets with you, along with additional food and water for them.

·         Have a hard-wired telephone in the room you select if possible. Call your emergency contact and have the phone available if you need to report a life-threatening condition. Cellular telephone equipment may be         overwhelmed or damaged during an emergency.

·         Use duct tape and plastic sheeting (heavier than food wrap) to seal all cracks around the door and any vents into the room.

·         Keep listening to your radio or TV until you hear the "all-clear” or are told to evacuate. Local officials may call for evacuation in specific areas at greatest risk in your community.

At Work:

·         Provide for the safety of any customers, clients, or visitors in the building by asking them to stay - not leave. When authorities direct residents to shelter-in-place, they want everyone to take those steps now, where              they are, and not drive or walk outdoors.

·         Unless there is an imminent threat, have employees, customers, clients and visitors call their emergency contact to let them know where they are and that they are safe.

·         Close window shades, blinds or curtains if you are told there is danger of explosion.

·         Have employees familiar with your building's mechanical systems turn off all fans, heating and air conditioning systems. Some systems automatically provide for exchange of inside air with outside air—these         systems in particular need to be turned off, sealed or disabled.

·         Gather essential disaster supplies such as nonperishable food, bottled water, battery-powered radios, first aid supplies, flashlights, batteries, duct tape, plastic sheeting and plastic garbage bags.

·         Select interior room(s) above the ground floor with the fewest windows or vents. The room(s) should have adequate space for everyone to be able to sit. Avoid overcrowding by selecting several rooms if necessary.              Large storage closets, utility rooms, pantries, copy rooms and conference rooms without exterior windows will work well. Avoid selecting rooms with mechanical equipment like ventilation blowers or pipes, because          this equipment may not be able to be sealed from the outdoors.

·         Have a hard-wired telephone in the room(s) you select if possible. Call emergency contacts and have the phone available if you need to report a life-threatening condition. Cellular telephone equipment may be         overwhelmed or damaged during an emergency.

·         Use duct tape and plastic sheeting (heavier than food wrap) to seal all cracks around the door(s) and any vents into the room.

·         Bring everyone into the room(s). Shut and lock the door(s).

·         Write down the name of everyone in the room, and call your designated emergency contact to report who is in the room with you, and their affiliation with your business (employee, visitor, client, customer).

·         Keep listening to the radio or TV until you hear the “all clear” or are told to evacuate. Local officials may call for evacuation in specific areas at greatest risk in your community.

In Your Vehicle:

If you are driving and hear advice to “shelter-in-place” on the radio, take these steps:

·         If you are very close to home, your office, or a public building, go there immediately and go inside. Follow the shelter-in-place recommendations described above for the place you pick.

·         If you are unable to get to a home or building quickly and safely, pull over to the side of the road. Do not attempt to drive through smoke or fumes. Stop your vehicle in the safest place possible. If it is sunny, it is        preferable to stop under a bridge or in a shady spot, to avoid being overheated.

·         Turn off the engine.   

·         Close all doors, windows and vents.

·         Seal the heating/air conditioning vents with duct tape if possible.

·         Listen to the radio for updated advice and instructions.

·         Stay where you are until you are told it is safe to get back on the road. Be aware that some roads may be closed or traffic detoured. Follow the directions of law enforcement officials.

Local officials on the scene are the best source of information for your particular situation. Following their instructions during and after emergencies regarding sheltering, food, water and clean up methods is your safest choice.

Remember that instructions to shelter-in-place are usually provided for durations of a few hours, not days or weeks. There is little danger that the room in which you are taking shelter will run out of oxygen.

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