Emergency Preparedness Essentials


Seeking Shelter

In many emergencies it is necessary to take shelter.

It is often necessary to take shelter in times of disaster when conditions require it. You may need to stay outside the disaster zone with friends, family, in commercial lodging, or in an evacuation center.

Because the safest type of shelter will vary by hazard, it is important to consider the hazards that may occur near you and plan for each one. For example, in the case of a tornado you will want to find an interior room away from windows, doors, outside walls, etc. on the lowest level possible.

Sometimes it is safer to “shelter in place” rather than risk any unknown outside danger. Seek more information on creating or maintaining safe shelters.

The amount of time you may need to shelter will vary by disaster. You must stay in shelter until you are told it is safe to leave by the local authorities. Take turns listening for updates and maintain at least a 24-hour safety watch.

Make sure you ration your food and other supplies during extended periods of sheltering. Learn more about Managing Food and Managing Water.

Shelter for Mass Care

Plan to take your own disaster supplies kit with you to the shelter for mass care. They will often provide the food, water, medicine, and basic hygiene facilities but you will want as much of your own things as you can. It will inevitably be stressful to have so many people in such a small space but try to cooperate with the managers of the shelter and their assistants. Remember that alcohol and weapons are forbidden and smoking restricted.

In order to find the nearest shelter, Text SHELTER + your ZIP code to 43362 (4FEMA)- (example: shelter 12345).

Tips and Guidelines for Staying Put

Sometimes it is safer to stay put rather than risk uncertainty elsewhere.

“Sealing the room,” is a process that requires putting a barrier between potentially contaminated outside air and yourself. It can be imperative for survival.

Try to use common sense to assess the situation. If you see debris in the air or you are told the air is contaminated you will probably want to take this action.

Sheltering in place, a process which temporarily protects by sealing a room to create a barrier between yourself and the contamination, requires pre-planning.
  • Bring pets and family inside.
  • Close air vents, fireplaces, and windows, as well as lock doors.
  • Turn off all forced heating and air conditioning systems and all fans.
  • Unless you think it is contaminated, take your own emergency supply kit.
  • Try to find an interior room to go to with few or no windows.
  • You will need to use a 2-4 mil. thick plastic sheeting with duct tape to seal all doors, windows, and air vents. In order to save time you may want to measure and cut this in advance.
  • Label each sheet and cut the plastic used for sheeting several inches wider than either of the openings.
  • First duct tape down the plastic at corners and then down the edges.
  • You may have to improvise and use what you have there to seal gaps and create a barrier between yourself and the contamination.
  • Even though local authorities might not be able to give you all the information you need at once, keep watching TV, listening to the radio, or check the news for instructions as they are reported to you.

Creating A Sealed Room as Shelter

If normal breathing when resting is occurring, you will need ten square feet on the floor per person in order to have enough air for five hours before carbon dioxide is built up.

However, after 2-3 hours officials prefer you evacuate to a more protective place because contaminated air will gradually seep in to your shelter.

Once the emergency has passed you will want to make sure you ventilate the shelter so as to not risk breathing contaminated air that may now be in the shelter.

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