What does "shelter in place" mean?

Agricultural Disaster Preparedness and Recovery, Family Caregiving February 11, 2014 Print Friendly and PDF

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Simply put, shelter in place means stay inside in the safest area until the danger is past. A safe area will vary depending on the hazard. For example, if you have received a tornado warning, you should immediately go to the designated room. In your home, that may be in a basement or an interior room on the lowest level away from corners, doors and outside walls. If you have access to a safe room, go there immediately.

Winter weather can bring ice, severe snow storms or extreme cold. You may be advised to stay where you are -- shelter in place -- until it is safe for travel. These storms also may affect utilities and communications in your area. You may not have heat, light or telephone for days. The American Red Cross provides a winter storm checklist.

If a suspected criminal is loose in your area, you may also be advised to stay indoors -- shelter in place -- with all windows and exterior doors closed and locked. Check a radio, TV or website for status updates and to hear when the area is again safe.

Finally,  a shelter in place advisory may be issued if there has been a chemical, biological or radiological release in the air. In this case, you may be advised to move to a small, interior room with no or few windows. Listen closely to local expert instructions about where to take shelter. Some chemicals are heavier than air and may seep into basements, even if the windows are closed. Other chemicals are lighter than air and may concentrate in the upper portions of your house or building. If there is a hazardous release and you are advised to shelter in place, you will be advised to take steps to prevent outside air from coming inside. See Shelter-in-Place During a Chemical or Radiation Emergency (American Red Cross and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) for more information about what you can do.

Develop an evacuation plan so that you and your family will know what to do if you are told to evacuate.

Additional information

Preparing Makes Sense, Get Ready Now (Ready.gov)

Disaster Supply Kit



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This work is supported by the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture, New Technologies for Ag Extension project.