Best Practices for Shelter-in-Place at Home

Best Practices for Shelter-in-Place at Home

“Shelter-in-place” means to take immediate refuge at your current location. It is an emergency procedure for people affected by a biological, chemical or radiological attack or accident. Shelter-in-place is typically a short-term procedure of several hours, not days or weeks.

 Research your surroundings.

One key element of planning is to understand the types of disasters may happen in your area. For example, do you live near a manufacturing facility that uses compounds that could leak or explode, resulting in a chemical disaster or release of toxic fumes? Are you within several miles of a nuclear power facility?

Knowing your surroundings is important to better preparing for the types of accidents or attacks that may occur, beyond general preparedness. Recognize, though, that it may be nearly impossible to plan for every scenario. In general, follow the best practices outlined below to shelter-in-place.

 Know when to shelter-in-place.

If a disaster occurs, local authorities will most likely use television or radio emergency broadcasts to alert affected areas so we recommend downloading an emergency alert app like the Red Cross alert app or local police scanner app. As a backup to these, a hand-crank radio is good to have on hand should cell service be down or overloaded. Once you learn what is going on, it’s important to follow local authorities’ guidance and know what to do if a shelter-in-place command is given. If you are told to evacuate an area, don’t hesitate.

 How to Shelter-in-Place at Home

A shelter-in-place plan at home should begin with pre-selecting your “go-to” room. This should be an interior room with few or no windows, preferably above ground floor, and not in a basement, as some chemicals are heavier than air. Follow these recommended procedures:

Alert your emergency contacts of the situation

  • Close and lock all exterior windows and doors
  • If danger of explosion exists, close window shades and curtains
  • Turn off all fans and HVAC (heating, ventilating and air conditioning) equipment
  • Close the fireplace damper or flue
  • Bring your emergency survival kit(s) and food/water supplies into your shelter room
  • Bring in pets and ensure they have extra water and food
  • Use duct tape and plastic (thick painter’s plastic drop clothes work well) to seal all doors and windows within your shelter-in-place room(s)
  • Listen to the radio or TV to stay informed

At home, be sure to have a checklist of items for your emergency survival kit. Compare yours with this list from the Red Cross (

While the information here is about shelter-in-place best practices at home, most recommendations still apply at school or at work. For additional information about shelter-in-place preparedness, visit the National Terror Alert Response Center at

Share this post

Leave a Reply