Shelter in place - what, why and how
By Airman 1st Class Heidi Vukasin, 17th Civil Engineer Squadron
/ Published February 13, 2009
GOODFELLOW AIR FORCE BASE, Texas -- Hazardous materials emergencies can occur anywhere that hazardous materials are manufactured, stored, or transported. Chemical plants are obvious sources of potential accidents. Less obvious are highways, railways and storage areas at places such as swimming pools (chlorine).
In the event of an emergency involving hazardous materials, you may be directed to evacuate the area or to shelter-in-place if evacuation could potentially expose people to harmful substances.
Shelter-In-Place is one of the basic instructions you may receive from public safety officials during a chemical emergency in your community. It is the act of going inside a facility and sealing it off to prevent hazardous materials from seeping in, thus "sheltering" you from potential harm. You are most likely to hear about a chemical emergency by radio, television, or warning sirens.
The following actions should be taken when directed to shelter-in-place during a hazardous materials emergency:
- Bring everyone inside to the pre-identified SIP facility (can the location be isolated from outside air supply duct systems?)
- Lock doors, close windows and air vents
- Turn off fans, air conditioning, and forced air heating systems
- Take your emergency supply kit unless you have reason to believe it has been contaminated and go into an interior room, e.g. a break room, conference room, restroom or storage rooms with few windows, if possible
- Seal all windows, doors, and air vents with plastic sheeting and duct tape; measure and cut the sheeting in advance to save time
- Be prepared to improvise and use what you have on hand to seal air gaps so that you create a barrier between yourself and any contamination
- Watch TV, listen to the radio, or check the Internet for official news and instructions as they become available
Each unit on Goodfellow Air Force Base is required to have a SIP plan. Unit facility managers, assisted by their unit Emergency Management Representatives, are responsible for identifying SIP facilities/rooms and ensuring the proper equipment and procedures are in place.
For more information on SIP actions, contact your unit Emergency Management representative or download the Goodfellow Air Force Base Shelter-In-Place guide from the Goodfellow Office of Emergency Management community of practice, located on the Air Force Portal.