How to Shelter-in-Place

One of the basic instructions you may be given in a chemical emergency is to shelter-in-place. This is a precaution aimed to keep you and your family safe while remaining in your home. If you are told to shelter-in-place, go inside, close all windows and vents and turn off all fans, heating or cooling systems. Take family members and pets to a safe room, seal windows and doors, and listen to local radio (or television) stations, or a NOAA Weather Radio for instructions.
  • While gathering your family, you can provide a minimal amount of breathing protection by covering your mouth and nose with a damp cloth. Many chemicals can cause damage to breathing passages.
  • Immediately after the shelter-in-place announcement is issued, fill up bathtubs or large containers for an additional water supply, and turn off the intake valve to the house. Water supplies may become contaminated. Preserve the water you have available.
  • If gas or vapors could have entered the building, take shallow breaths through a cloth or a towel. Many chemicals can cause damage to breathing passages.
  • Avoid eating or drinking any food or water that may be contaminated. Injury may occur from eating or drinking toxic chemicals.
  • Seal house so contaminants cannot enter:
    • Close and lock all windows and doors in your home.
    • Turn off all fans, heating and air conditioning systems.
    • Close the fireplace damper.
    • Seal gaps and cracks under doorways and windows with wet towels and duct tape.
    • Seal gaps around window and air conditioning units, bathroom and kitchen exhaust fans, and stove and dryer vents with duct tape and plastic sheeting, wax paper, or aluminum wrap.
    • Close off nonessential rooms such as storage areas, laundry rooms, and extra bedrooms.
    • Turn off ventilation systems.
  • Go to an above-ground room (not the basement) with the fewest windows and doors. Some chemicals are heavier than air, and may seep into basements, even if the windows are closed.
  • Take your Disaster Supplies Kit with you. These items may make you more comfortable while you are waiting for further instructions.
  • Stay in the room and listen to your radio or television until you are told all is safe, or you are told to evacuate. Local officials may call for evacuation in specific areas at greatest risk in your community. Following the advice of local authorities is your safest choice.
  • If you are told there is danger of explosion, close the window shades, blinds, or curtains. To avoid injury, stay away from the windows. If windows break due to the explosion, the shades will help prevent glass from shattering into your home.