Shelter-in-Place

How to protect yourself during a hazardous materials incident near your home or workplace.

What is Sheltering-in-place?

You may be told to Shelter-in-place. This means staying where you are and making yourself as safe as possible until the emergency passes or you are told to evacuate. It means protecting yourself by sealing your room or car to keep the clean air in and the bad air out. This brochure is about what you need to do if a hazardous material is ever accidentally spilled or released in your neighborhood. Everyone should know what to do in a chemical emergency.

Why Shelter-in-place?

The world we live in today is an industrial one. We make, transport and use products created from substances that can be hazardous to humans and pets. Hazardous materials, if released or misused, can pose a threat to the environment or health. These substances can be found in business and industry. They are transported by rail and over the road. If a hazardous material spill happens near where you are, there may not he time to evacuate the area because the air outside is not safe. Your best option may be to go inside and prepare a room where you and your family can take shelter until the emergency passes and the “all-clear” signal is given. Hazardous material releases can come without warning and allow only minutes to respond. Sheltering-in-place limits your chances of being exposed to an air-borne hazard.

When there is enough time to respond, you may be asked to “evacuate” the area until the emergency passes. Safe evacuation routes will be given through local radio and television stations. Take a change of clothing, baby! dietary needs and medicines with you. Most hazardous material spill emergencies last only a few hours at most.

In the car

  • Do not drive through a gas-cloud.
  • Remember that the chemical is moving with the wind. Don’t travel with it or into it.
  • You should move crosswind with the wind at your side.
  • Close all windows and vents.
  • Turn off heating or air-conditioning and circulating fans.
  • Turn on car radio and listen for instructions on where to get information (See below).
  • If your car stalls, do not restart the engine; Shelter in place.

Choosing a "Shelter Room"

At Home

  • Do not use a basement room. Many chemical vapors are heavier than air. Choose a room on the main floor or second floor in the home.
  • An ideal room has few windows, is large enough to shelter your whole family comfortably and preferably has access to water. A bedroom with an adjoining bath would work well.

At the workplace

  • An employee break room or a large bathroom that would be large enough to shelter people may be a good choice.
  • Minimize the use of elevators as they tend to pump outdoor air in and out of the building as they travel up and down.
  • For buildings in which heating and air-conditioning are centrally controlled, contact the building supervisor for shut down.
  • Know what windows are likely to be open; assign someone to close them.
  • Know where manual vents are located and how to close them.
  • Follow your facility’s policies and procedures.

What to do at Home or Workplace

  • Move people and pets indoors immediately.
  • Locate your Shelter-in-Place kit. (See content list below)
  • Close and lock all windows and doors.
  • Turn off all air-conditioners, furnaces and fans; close vents.
  • Extinguish fire and close fireplace dampers.
  • Move everyone into one pre-selected room of the house.
  • Use duct tape and pre-cut heavy plastic to cover doors and windows to seal room tightly.
  • Breathe through a wet towel if necessary.
  • Listen to your radio or TV for further instructions.
  • Stay inside until you have been told that the danger has passed.

Note: You will not run out of air in a shelter room. Sealing the room just slows the flow of air from the outside, protecting you longer from possible exposure.

DOs and DON’Ts

  • DO Shelter-in-place if told to do so. Leaving your home or business may expose you to more chemical vapors.
  • DO NOT go to schools to pick up children. Children will be cared for by school personnel. Schools have plans in place for such incidents.
  • DO NOT call 911 unless there is injury or other emergency.
  • DO NOT make unnecessary phone calls. This may tie up regular or cellular phone lines needed by fire, police or sheriff.
  • DO NOT risk your safety for your pets. If they can’t be found within a minute of two, you’ll have to shelter-in-place without them.
  • DO NOT leave your shelter until the “all-clear” signal is given by officials.

Sheltering Kit

It is important to take time to prepare your kit in advance. Pre-cut and label plastic sheeting for the windows and vents of your pre-selected room and collect the following items.

Shelter Kit should include:

  • Cut and label plastic sheeting for each window, door, air vent or opening.
  • 2 or 3 rolls of duct tape for sealing plastic sheeting.
  • Towels
  • If there is no phone in your designated shelter room, include a cordless or cellular phone.
  • Cards, games to pass the time.
  • A flashlight with extra batteries.
  • A battery powered radio with spare batteries
  • A few non-perishable food items, snack bars, candy, etc.
  • A first aid kit
  • Personal hygiene items
  • One gallon of fresh water per person in closed containers
  • Special needs for small children, elderly (food, medicines etc.).

Where to tune for information

Area radio and television stations are part of the Emergency Alert System (EAS) and will be good sources of information during an emergency.

The primary EAS broadcast stations for this area are:

NOAA weather radio will also have information. Although these stations exist primarily for weather information, they will also broadcast information regarding other emergencies that threaten life. In Pottawattamie County. there are two frequencies for NOAA weather radio: 162.40 MHz. and 162.525 MHz.

In the event of an emergency, follow the directions provided by the local police and fire departments.

This important information is brought to you by the members of the Pottawattamie County Local Emergency Planning Committee

Pottawattamie County Local Emergency Planning Committee
(Contact Emergency Management)
Pottawattamie County Emergency Management Agency
227 South 6th St.
Council Bluffs, IA 51501

American Red Cross
Loess Hills Chapter
915 N. 16th St.
Council Bluffs, IA 51501

IBP, Inc.
2700 23rd Avenue
Council Bluffs, IA 51501

MidAmerican Energy
216 Navajo
Council Bluffs, IA

Council Bluffs Fire Dept.
200 South 4th
Council Bluffs, IA 51503

Future Foam, Inc.
1610 Avenue N
Council Bluffs, IA 51501

ConAgra Foods
1023 4th St.
Council Bluffs, IA 51503

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