Prepare in a Year: November – Sheltering

There are different types of sheltering that are appropriate for different types of disasters. Regardless of the type of disaster, the first step is to assess the situation and decide whether it is safe to stay or better to change locations.

Shelter in Place
Airborne contaminants may be released into the environment in such quantity and/or proximity to your home or place of work that it is safer to remain indoors rather than to evacuate. In this instance, you would need to Shelter in Place. Sheltering in place is essentially creating a safe room in your home or work by sealing a room. Sealing a room allows you to create a barrier between you and the outside contaminates for a short period of time until the contaminates dissipate and authorities deem it safe to evacuate.

Sealing a room:

  • Shut off all fans and adjust the heater and air conditioner to stay off to keep the air from circulating in your home.
  • Choose a room in your home that has limited windows and can be sealed tightly. A master bedroom is a great choice because it can accommodate you and your family for several hours. It may even have a bathroom attached, giving you access to running water.
  • Purchase and precut plastic sheeting to fit all windows, doors and vents. You can also label each piece to ensure quick application if needed.
  • Store your precut sheeting, duct tape, a battery-powered radio (to get alerts to know when it is safe to come out), a flashlight, water and snacks in a bucket or bag in your safe room. For bonus points, add a deck of cards or a game to keep you and your family entertained.

Should the need ever arise, you and your family can quickly move to your safe room, seal it up and be comfortable until authorities say it is safe to come out. You may also repeat this process at your place of work.

If you happen to be in your car, roll up your windows, close your vents and turn off your motor. Breathe through a damped cloth and listen to the radio for more information. If your car does not allow you to listen to the radio with the motor turned off, think about storing a radio in your car along with your kit. It should also be noted that authorizes may ask you to stay in your homes or shelter in place for other reasons than airborne contaminants. In these instances, you may just need to go inside, lock the doors and not have to seal a room.

Shelter for Extended Stay
The length of time required to shelter may be longer than a couple of hours, such as during a winter storm or pandemic. Sheltering for an extended stay means that you would have to stay where you are for several days. In the event of a pandemic, you may be asked to limit your exposure to the outside world for several weeks and stay at home as much as possible. In this case, you would be relying on your emergency kit, the one you have been building throughout the Prepare in a Year series.

Mass Care/Community Shelter
These are congregated care facilities that house many people in one location. In the event your home is not safe to inhabit following a major disaster, a community shelter may be an option. These types of shelters often provide food, water and basic sanitation needs, however, you should bring your emergency kit with you to ensure you have what you and your family need. Remember to bring supplies for your pets. If a particular shelter does allow pets, you will be responsible for providing food and care for them. Listen to authorities for where and when shelters will be opened and always cooperate with shelter managers and the volunteers assisting them.

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