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How to shelter in place

case studies

In October 2009 in Contra Costa County, California, a teenager mixed dangerous chemicals inside his home in a suicide attempt. Residents living in the area complained about the fumes and unusual odors. Many suffered from severe chest pains. The local county issued a shelter-in-place order for all of the immediate surrounding areas. Additionally, on August 6, 2012, the city of Richmond, California issued a shelter-in-place notice for a fire at the Chevron Richmond refinery. The toxic fumes traveled through the air to homes where many complained of respiratory problems. And finally, on October 29, 2012, the city of Louisville, Kentucky declared an emergency and issued a shelter-in-place notice after a train loaded with hazardous chemicals derailed and exploded near the Katherine Station.

Should I evacuate or shelter in place?

Local authorities are the best people to know if a scenario warrants an evacuation or a shelter-in-place notice. It is important to listen to the radio when you suspect an emergency event has occurred. For example, officials in the city of Mississauga, Ontario, Canada, decided to evacuate more than 200,000 people after a train derailed and exploded on November 10, 1979. The train cars were carrying hazardous chemicals such as butane, propane, styrene, propylene, toluene, and chlorine.

How to shelter in place?

1. Block all windows in the car and house, including interior and exterior doors.

Your windows and doors should be locked and tightly closed. Any open window or door will present extreme danger to all passengers within your vehicle and residents within your home.

2. Turn off all fans, heating, and air conditioning systems to prevent outside air from entering.

If you are inside your home or vehicle, be sure to turn off any heating or air conditioning fans. That includes the air that circulates internally inside your car. While many manufacturers have significantly improved air filters, it is never worth taking the risk of introducing deadly chemicals into your vehicle or home.

3. Take out your emergency kit, radio and N95 masks

Take out the N95 masks that are included in your emergency kit and fit them securely around your mouth and nose. Pull out your emergency radio and listen for emergency broadcasts related to the shelter-in-place notice.

4. Go to a room that is above the ground with no windows.

If you are indoors, go to a room that has no windows and is above ground level. Doing this ensures that you have the best possible chance of reducing your exposure to poisonous chemicals. Some chemicals are heavier than others and cannot travel above ground. For that reason, it is prudent to take refuge on the surface.

5. Use the duct tape found inside your emergency kit to seal all cracks around doors and vents.

Use the duct tape from your emergency kit to seal all the cracks around your windows and doors; inside your vehicle or at home. The space between your doors and windows becomes the most vulnerable point of exposure. A small hole can expose you to harmful chemicals and cause serious injury. For this reason, duct tape is used to help create an airtight seal to ensure your safety.

Follow these steps and be ready the next time a shelter-in-place order is announced. Remember to have your personal emergency kit and roadside emergency kit available at all times, it is not just a bag, it is the life of your family.


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