A Beginner’s Guide: How to Shelter in Place

In a world that’s ever changing and introduces us to threats such as pandemic diseases and natural disasters, it’s important to prepare for anything.

Sometimes, the best course of action is to shelter in place. To shelter in place means that you get inside as quickly as possible and hunker down. Here’s how to shelter in place the right way, whether you’re at work, home, or in your car.

Shelter in Place at Home

The length of time you need to shelter in place depends on the disaster or catastrophic event. If it’s for a tornado, it may just be for a short period, or if it’s a pandemic disease, it could be for days. You should always plan ahead and create a survival plan and stockpile necessary supplies so you’ll be prepared to shelter in place. Necessary supplies include food, water, basic first aid supplies, tools, flashlights, critical survival gear, and more.

Sheltering in place at home is probably one of the best-case scenarios. You can practice how to shelter at home with family members, so they know what to do in an emergency. You’ll need to determine if you need to shelter in place and seal a room, shelter in place for a disaster, or just stay at home to avoid contact with other people. Here are some tips for sheltering in place at home when local authorities tell you to.

  • Get inside your house with your loved ones, pets, and emergency supplies.
  • Find the safest spot, depending on the emergency. For example, you should hide in the basement or in a room with no outside windows on the first floor when the threat is a tornado.
  • Stay there until authorities give the okay to leave safely.

When preparing for emergencies, you should purchase a solar-powered or crank radio so you can hear emergency broadcasts. You should also have an emergency contact like a family member that doesn’t live in the same area that you do. 

Once you shelter in place, let that emergency contact know what’s happening and where you are while monitoring the radio for more information.  Use your cellphone sparingly, but keep it close in case you need to call 911 for a life-threatening emergency. 

Keep listening to your television, phone, or radio for updates on the situation. Do not leave your home unless officials say it’s okay. If directed to evacuate the area, do so, and follow their instructions.

Turning Off Utilities

Sometimes you may be instructed to turn off your electricity if you have damage to your house. You should always keep tools close to water and gas shut-off valves. Teach other members of your family how to turn off the utilities. Once you turn the gas off, someone from your gas company will have to help you turn it on again. Don’t try to turn it back on yourself.

Sheltering in Place with Your Pets

While you’re sheltering in place with your pet, you need to find a spot for them to go to the bathroom while they are inside. If there is a tornado outside, they can’t go outside to pee or poop, so you’ll need plastic bags, containers, cleaning supplies, and newspapers to prepare a spot for them to go to the bathroom.

Sheltering in Place and Sealing the Room

During some emergencies, you may need to prevent outside air from entering the room you’re sheltering in. In this case, you’ll need to:

  • Turn off fans, air conditioners, and everything that moves air.
  • Bring your pets and family inside the room and bring your emergency supplies if you can get to them easily and they’re clean. 
  • Seal all the air vents, doors, and windows with plastic sheeting and duct tape. To make things easier and quicker, you can measure and cut the plastic during the planning phase so you can save time. 
  • You may need to improvise by using whatever you have with you to seal any gaps and create a barrier against contamination. 
  • Keep monitoring the radio or TV as well as check the internet for further instructions and news. Local officials may not be able to update you immediately about what is going on, but they will as soon as possible.

How to Shelter in Place in Your Vehicle

Some emergencies may require you to pull off the road and stay in your car wherever you are. If you’re close to home, work, or a public building, then go there as quickly as possible and go inside. But if you can’t get to a building, here’s what you can do.

  • Pull off the road at the safest place and turn off your vehicle. If it’s hot outside, try to find a bridge or shady spot to pull over to avoid overheating.
  • Monitor the radio and stay where you are until authorities tell you it’s safe to resume traveling. Today’s radios use very little battery power, so you can listen to the radio for one or two hours without worrying that your car battery will die.
  • Even after it’s time to continue driving, listen to the radio. Authorities may have more information or directions for you to follow.

Sheltering in Place at School or Work

If disaster strikes while you’re at school or work, you need to be prepared. However, it’s more difficult to plan for incidents away from home. Keep a bag in your office that includes a water filter, non-perishable food, a medical kit, and other essential items.

Sheltering in a school is even more difficult to prepare for. Always try to keep a few things in a bag or purse that you carry with you. A water filter and some granola or protein bars would always be great items to keep with you.

The idea of sheltering in place can be frightening. But if you prepare for it and practice what to do with your family, it will seem less scary to everyone. Preparation will help you reduce stress and focus on the important things if you and your family ever need to shelter in place.  

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