Shelter in place, otherwise known as Shelter In-Place Warning, involves making use of a structure and its indoor atmosphere to momentarily keep shield yourself from the imminent danger on the outside. This means shutting all the windows and doors as well as vents and immediately taking shelter in the nearest location that guarantees your safety until the hazardous situation on the outside subsides.
In any emergency event, there is a likelihood of panic and it is only logical to stay away from the danger by seeking shelter in the readily accessible location. Shelter in place has been used as response tactic to armed events, such as the Fort Hood shooting which took place in 2014. Equally, shelter in place has also been implemented in a lockdown event by agencies such as the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency. The same tactic was used during the Boston Bombing suspect’s manhunt.
How is Shelter-in-Place Implemented?
The people residing in the affected area are first given alerts about the hazardous environment on the outside through the media, warning sirens, horns and the Reverse 911 as well as the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration weather reports. Alerts are also issued to public address systems mounted on vehicles. In the US, it is mandatory that facilities such as nuclear power plants have audio alerts systems that can be heard within a radius of 16 Kilometers.
Once a shelter-in-place alert has been issued, it is expected that the residents will go indoors, tag their children along, and shut all the windows and doors. All openings that may allow outside materials to get into the place of shelter such as fireplace dampers and ventilation are blocked. However, this only done if the residents are advised to do so via the radio or television and in case it happens, residents should use duct tapes or plastic to seal the shelter.
Most of the time, shelter-in-place is used for a relatively short period of time, usually around 3 hours assuming that the occupants of the shelter have enough oxygen to last them that long. In the event carbon dioxide levels get toxic after the three hour period has elapsed, the room has to be recharged with more oxygen to enable the occupants of the shelter extend another 3 hours stay. In case the hazardous situation on the outside persists for more than six hours occupants of the shelter are supplied with a carbon dioxide sensor to help identify when more supply of oxygen is needed.