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Feb. 12, 2007
Safety Tips from the Local Emergency Planning Committee --
What Do They Mean by 'Shelter-in-Place?
Whenever there is a release of chemical substances into the air, via manmade or natural disaster, there is a potential for hazardous gases escaping. Some kinds of accidents may make going outdoors dangerous, and leaving the area might take too long or put people in harm's way.
The term “shelter-in-place” has been used by emergency officials across the country as a protective action for the public to take during chemical emergencies. Sheltering-in-place is a short-term solution to reduce exposure to contaminants -- by making a building as safe as possible to protect those inside until help arrives.
Other situations that could require sheltering-in-place include radiological releases or weather-related events such as tornadoes.
During an emergency, first responders or emergency-management officials will issue instructions by door-to-door notification, over the Emergency Alert System on radio and television stations, or through other channels. Whether you're advised to evacuate or remain indoors, it's important to follow the advice of emergency officials.
Oswego County recently reinforced shelter-in-place as a protective action during nuclear power plant emergencies. During an emergency requiring the public to take protective actions, when evacuation isn't advisable due to weather or other circumstances, emergency officials will direct people in the affected areas to shelter-in-place.
If emergency officials advise you to shelter-in-place, you should:
- Go inside as quickly as possible. Bring any outdoor pets indoors.
- If there is time, shut and lock all outside doors and windows. Locking them may pull the door or window tighter and make a better seal against the chemical contaminant. Turn off the air conditioner or heater. Turn off all fans. Close the fireplace damper and any other place that air from outside can enter the building.
- If possible, go to a windowless room or one with a minimum number of doors and windows, on the first floor.
- Turn on the radio or television for news about the emergency and instructions from emergency officials. If the Emergency Alert System has been activated, stay tuned to an EAS station.
- Keep a telephone close at hand, but don't use it except for serious emergencies.
Emergency experts debate whether or not you should seal a shelter-in-place area with plastic and duct-tape. Shelter-in-place is only for short-term protection, until people can be evacuated safely or the threat has passed. Only seal a room if directed to by emergency officials; the more people you have in smaller and more tightly-sealed places, the greater the risk of oxygen deprivation.
You can be ready for any emergency by putting together a disaster supplies kit. Your kit should include the following items:
Battery-operated radio with extra batteries
Flashlight for every room with extra batteries
1 gallon of water per person per day
Ready-to-eat, non-perishable foods (canned meats, soups, fruits & vegetables)
High-energy foods - peanut butter, jelly, granola bars
Food for infants, elderly, people with special diets
Special needs for pets
Comfort foods - cookies, hard candies, instant coffee, tea bags
First Aid kit
Prescription and special needs for elderly, infants and children, disabled people
Extra blankets or sleeping bags
A change of clothing per person per day
Hats and mittens
Tools (non-electric can opener, pliers, tape, aluminum foil, needles and thread)
For more information about sheltering-in-place, visit these Web sites: www.fema.gov, www.redcross.org, www.cdc.gov. More information on the Local Emergency Planning Committee is available by calling the Oswego County Emergency Management Office at 591-9150 or visiting the Emergency Management page on the Oswego County Web site, www.oswegocounty.com/emo.
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