“Warning! Seek shelter!” If you heard this message right now, would you be ready?
While emergencies such as fires or hurricanes may call for you to evacuate, others require that you stay put — or “shelter in place” — to keep safe. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, sheltering in place means to stay where you are and make the building as safe as possible to protect yourself.
Taking shelter can either be a short-term measure, such as going to a safe room for a brief time during a tornado warning, or long term, where you need to stay in your home for several days. In both instances, it’s important to follow a general set of procedures. If you are recommended by officials to shelter in place, get inside as quickly as possible and tune into any radio or television that may have emergency updates. You may be advised to close and lock all exterior doors and windows, and to turn off air conditioning systems. In the event of a toxic chemical release, make sure to also close all vents, fireplace dampers and as many interior doors as possible.
When preparing for a disaster that requires sheltering in place, it’s important to select a room that will keep you the safest. While the room you choose may change depending on the specific type of disaster, most shelter rooms should be a large room with as few windows and doors as possible. Having access to a clean water source, like a bathroom or kitchen with a sink, is also a plus.
Once you’ve picked your shelter room, keep it stocked with a flashlight, battery-powered radio (with extra batteries for both), emergency food, bottled water, a first aid kit and a telephone or charged cell phone. Setting aside some games or books that will help you while away the time is also a good idea.
Also, don’t assume that emergencies will only happen when you are at home. Check with your office, workplace or school to find out where sheltering locations are, and offer to help if they don’t have one designated yet. You’ll be helping yourself, but also your community, be more prepared when it counts.