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Sheltering in Place

Topic Overview

In many types of public health emergencies, the safest thing to do is simply to stay indoors. If the air is unsafe because of an incident involving hazardous chemicals, radiation, or an aerosol release of a biological agent, local authorities may advise you to "shelter in place," which limits your exposure to the outside air.

To shelter in place:

  1. Make sure all family members and pets that are at home are inside. Then close and lock all doors and windows.
  2. Turn off air conditioners, air exchangers, fans, and furnaces. Close vents and fireplace dampers.
  3. Move to an inner room, preferably at or above ground level and without windows. (If the incident involves radiation, authorities may tell you to take shelter in a basement.) If you have an emergency supplies kit, take it with you. At the very least, make sure that you have a battery-powered radio and flashlight and plenty of drinking water. You can also use a radio or flashlight that is powered by a hand crank and so does not need batteries.
  4. If local authorities advise you to do so, use duct tape to secure plastic sheeting around door and window frames.
  5. Stay tuned in to the local news, and stay inside until local authorities say that it is safe to come out.

Credits

By Healthwise Staff
E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine
Christine Hahn, MD - Epidemiology
Last Revised April 16, 2013

This information does not replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise, Incorporated disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information. Your use of this information means that you agree to the Terms of Use. How this information was developed to help you make better health decisions.

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