In a situation where a hazardous chemical release has quickly created a toxic atmosphere, it may be more dangerous to go through those toxic vapors or to attempt to outrun them than to stay in an existing structure. Shelter-in-Place means to get to the inside of a building and remain there during a chemical emergency rather than attempting to evacuate the area. Shelter-in-Place is a viable option for protection against exposure to potentially dangerous airborne chemicals during an emergency.

How safe is it to Shelter-in-Place?

The average house will exchange its air with outside air at a rate of less than 1/3 change per hour. If one room in the house was sealed up with duct tape and plastic, the amount of chemical that was in the room after one hour will be between 1/7 to 1/17 of what was outside. Sheltering-in-place may not completely eliminate exposure to the chemical, but it can keep the exposure below dangerous levels.

When should I Shelter-in-Place?

If you feel or hear a strange sound like an explosion; if you see a strange cloud; if you smell a strange odor; if you feel nauseous or have burning or tearing eyes; trust your senses, don't wait for a warning confirmation and act immediately. If it is obvious that you can safely evacuate the area, do so, but remember shelter-in-place as the next option. Shelter-in-Place does not apply to flammable gases such as Propane and Natural gases.

Where do I Shelter-in-Place?

Go inside any building close by. Your home is the best choice to shelter-in-place, because you will know where tapes, towels, plastics and other items are located to help you create your shelter space.

How do I Shelter-in-Place?

  • Close all doors inside and outside, close and lock all windows, and close the fireplace damper.
  • Turn off ventilation systems should be turned off.
  • Pick a room on the highest level of the structure, the best choice would also provide access to water and toilet.
  • Seal all gaps in walls, windows, doorways, electrical outlets, switches, and more with duct tape and plastic sheeting, wax paper, or aluminum wrap.
  • Listen to the radio or TV for emergency information and updates on the incident.
  • Don't call 911 unless you have an emergency like a fire or a serious injury.
  • Keep your phone available in case someone needs to contact you.

How will I know when it is safe to come out?

As soon as it is deemed safe, authorities will tell you it is safe to leave your building.

What if I can't make it to a building?

If you are driving, avoid a vapor cloud and try to drive uphill and upwind. If you are in a chemical cloud, evacuate to the safest place possible as soon as you can.