Know When and How to Shelter-in-Place for Businesses
One of the instructions you may be given in an
emergency where hazardous materials may have been released into the atmosphere
is to shelter-in-place. This is a precaution aimed to keep you safe while
remaining indoors. (This is not the same thing as going to a shelter in case of
a storm.) Shelter-in-place means selecting a small, interior room with no or few
windows and taking refuge there. It does not mean sealing off your entire
company. If you are told to shelter-in-place, follow the instructions below.
Why You Might Need to
Chemical, biological or radiological contaminants
may be released accidentally or intentionally into the environment. Should this
occur, information will be provided by local authorities on television and radio
stations on how to protect yourself. Because the information will most likely be
provided on television and radio, it is important to keep a TV or radio on, even
during the workday. The important thing is for you to follow instructions of
local authorities and know what to do if they advise you to
How to Shelter-in-Place
Close the business. Bring everyone into the room and shut
If there are customers, clients or visitors in the
building, provide for their safety by asking them to stay – not leave. When
authorities provide directions to shelter-in-place, they want everyone to take
those steps now, where they are, and not drive or walk outdoors.
Unless there is an imminent threat, ask employees,
customers, clients and visitors to call their emergency contact to let them know
where they are and that they are safe.
Turn on call-forwarding or alternative telephone answering
services or systems. If the business has voicemail or an automated attendant,
change the recording to indicate that the business is closed, and that staff and
visitors are remaining in the building until authorities advise it is safe to
Close and lock all windows, exterior doors and any other
openings to the outside.
If you are told there is danger of an explosion, close the
window shades, blinds or curtains.
Have employees familiar with your building’s mechanical
systems turn off all fans, heating and air conditioning systems. Some systems
automatically provide for exchange of inside air with outside air – these
systems, in particular, need to be turned off, sealed or disabled.
Gather essential disaster supplies, such as nonperishable
food, bottled water, battery-powered radios, first aid supplies, flashlights,
batteries, duct tape, plastic sheeting and plastic garbage bags.
Select interior room(s) above the ground floor, with the
fewest windows or vents. The room(s) should have adequate space for everyone to
be able to sit in. Avoid overcrowding by selecting several rooms if necessary.
Large storage closets, utility rooms, pantries, copy and conference rooms
without exterior windows will work well. Avoid selecting a room with mechanical
equipment like ventilation blowers or pipes, because this equipment might not be
able to be sealed from the outdoors.
It is ideal to have a hard-wired telephone in the room(s)
you select. Call emergency contacts and have the phone available if you need to
report a life-threatening condition. Cellular telephone equipment may be
overwhelmed or damaged during an emergency.
Use duct tape and plastic sheeting (heavier than food wrap)
to seal all cracks around the doors and any vents in the room.
Write down the names of everyone in the room, and call your
bushiness’ designated emergency contact to report who is in the room with you,
and their affiliation with your business (employee, visitor, client or
Keep listening to the 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.
Local officials on the scene
are the best source of information for your particular situation. Following
their instructions during and after emergencies regarding sheltering, food,
water and clean up methods is your safest choice.
Remember that instructions to shelter-in-place are
usually provided for durations of a few hours, not days or weeks. There is
little danger that the room in which you are taking shelter will run out of
oxygen and you will suffocate.
For more information visit the American Red Cross.