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Shelter or Evacuate

If you are told to Shelter-In-Place in a hazardous materials emergency

  • Go inside a building, bring pets inside with you
  • Listen to TV or radio for information
  • Close all doors and windows. Seal with tape or wet towels
  • Turn OFF air conditioners, heaters, and fans
  • Do NOT use fireplaces. Extinguish the fire. Close the damper
  • Do NOT go to schools to pick up children. School personnel will care for children. 
  • Close and lock windows and doors
  • Seal gaps under doorways and windows with wet towels and duct tape
  • Seal gaps around window and air conditioning units, bathroom and kitchen exhaust fans, and stove and dryer vents with duct tape and plastic sheeting, wax paper, or aluminum wrap
  • Close fireplace dampers
  • Close off nonessential rooms such as storage areas, laundry rooms, extra bedrooms, etc.
  • Turn off ventilation systems
Immediately after a sheltering-in-place announcement is issued, fill up bathtubs or large containers for an additional water supply and turn off the intake valve to the house.

If gas or vapors could have entered the building, take shallow breaths through a cloth or a towel.  Avoid eating or drinking any food or water that may be contaminated. Monitor the Emergency Broadcast System station for further updates and remain in shelter until authorities indicate it is safe to come out.

Authorities will decide if evacuation is necessary based primarily on the type and amount of chemical released, and how long it is expected to affect an area. Other considerations are the length of time it should take to evacuate the area, weather conditions, and  time of day.

Consider building and maintaining a home preparedness kit
Kits should include, but are not limited to:

  • Bath/Hand Towels
  • Duct Tape
  • Flashlight and Radio with Fresh Batteries
  • Non-Perishable Foods and Water
  • First Aid Kit with Scissors
Visit here for more information on building a preparedness kit.

If you are told to Evacuate in a hazardous materials emergency:

  • Gather a change of clothing
  • Gather items for other family members: infant supplies, special dietary needs, medicines, etc.
  • Keep car vents and windows closed when traveling
  • Do NOT use the car air conditioner or heater
  • Do NOT go to schools to pick up children. School personnel will care for children.
  • Evacuate quickly and stay calm

Assisting accident victims

Don't try to care for victims of a hazardous materials accident until the substance has been identified and authorities indicate it is safe to go near victims.

Then you can move the victims to fresh air and call for emergency medical care. Remove contaminated clothing and shoes, and place them in a plastic bag. Cleanse victims that have come in contact with chemicals by immediately pouring cold water over the skin or eyes for at least 15 minutes, unless authorities instruct you not to use water on the particular chemical involved.

If asked to evacuate

Stay tuned to a radio or television for information on evacuation routes, temporary shelters, and procedures. Follow the routes recommended by the authorities--shortcuts may not be safe. Leave as soon as possible.

If you have time, minimize contamination in the house by closing all windows, shutting all vents, and turning off attic fans. Take pre-assembled disaster supplies.

Remember to help your neighbors who may require special assistance--infants, elderly people, and people with functional and access needs.

Returning After an Evacuation

Return home only when authorities say it is safe. Follow local instructions concerning the safety of food and water. Clean up and dispose of residue carefully. Follow instructions from emergency officials concerning clean-up methods.