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How to Shelter-In-Place

Published on: 2/13/2013 4:19 PM

Sheltering-In-Place Preparedness

Evacuation is not always the safest option in the event of a hazardous material or other type of emergency. Your home or workplace can be a safe haven from an emergency. Up-front preparations will help.
  • Sheltering-In-Place mean staying inside your home or other building until emergency officials give an "all-clear" signal. Sheltering-In-Place can be your safest option in some emergencies.
  • Sheltering-In-Place is most commonly used for hazardous material emergencies but can also be used during some storms and some police emergencies where evacuation and exposure to the outside can be life-threatening.
  • Sheltering-In-Place preparations complement your other family emergency preparedness efforts.
Sheltering-In-Place Supplies
  • Battery-powered radio, flashlight, extra batteries, battery powered or cellular phone (if no phone in room)
  • Snack foods, water or drinks, pet foods
  • Plastic sheeting for windows, doors, air vents or other opening. You may want to pre-cut and label them
  • Rolls of duct tape for the plastic sheeting
  • Towel for under the door
  • First Aid Kit
Prepare your home before…
  • Choose a room for a "safe-room": Ideally, the room should have few windows, be large enough to hold the number of people you wish and have access to water. A bedroom with an adjoining bath is a great place.
  • Prepare window covering: Like the windows, measure each air vent, door and any other opening leading outside the room. Cut, label and store plastic sheeting.
  • Assemble Shelter-In-Place supplies: Your supplies should be stored in the pre-designated room. An under-the-bed box may work well or use a container that fits on a closet shelf or in a cabinet.
Sheltering-In-Place Procedures
  • Stay inside the enclosed building or your "safe room". If possible bring pets inside.
  • Close and lock all windows and doors to the outside. Close drapes and shades over all windows. Push wet towels under the doors to help seal against outside air if appropriate.
  • Turn off all heating/air conditioning systems, and switch inlets or vents to the "closed" position. Extinguish fireplace fires and close dampers.
  • In the "safe room" – use tape and pre-cut/labeled plastic sheeting to seal around doors, window, heating vents, skylights, or any opening which could let air in.
  • Seal bathroom exhaust fans or grills, range vents, dryer vents, and other openings (in "safe room" only).
  • If there is not phone on you designated shelter room, bring along a battery-operated or cellular phone.
  • Listen to the Emergency Alert System radio messages and follow the instructions. Other local stations may carry the instructions.
  • Do not go outside or attempt to drive unless specifically told to do so. Evacuation procedures may vary by area of danger.
  • Once the emergency has passed, ventilate your entire house.
Sheltering-In-Place DON’Ts
  • Don’t call the school to try to pick up your children. They will be safer Sheltering-In-Place at the school than they would be riding in your vehicle. (Also: the school may be outside of the hazard area – depending upon the emergency.)
  • Don’t leave your safe room until the "all clear" signal is sounded.
  • Don’t risk you safety for pets. If they can’t be found within a minute or two, you’ll have to Shelter-In-Place without them.
  • Don’t call 9-1-1 for a non-emergency.
  • Don’t wait until the disaster strikes to prepare… IT’S NEVER TOO EARLY!


For More Information Please Contact:
Office of Emergency Services
55 W. Younger Avenue
Suite 450
San Jose, CA 95110
Fax: 408-294-4851
Phone: 408-808-7800