Learn How to Shelter in Place

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A number of years ago, a 6.8 magnitude earthquake hit the Seattle area.  I was at work and the Survival Husband was at our house in Bellevue.  Right before the earthquake hit, my little dog ran up to him and jumped in his arms.  Then it hit.

We were lucky and suffered no damage but my neighbors home fell off its foundation.  Our home,  sitting at an altitude of 1000 feet at the top of a hill and on a steep bank, was  safe.  Funny how that works.

Following that event, I learned-up about post earthquake safety and of course, a couple of weeks ago I wrote about being prepared for an earthquake.  One of the lessons I learned after the 2001 quake was that if you are safe – and the authorities are not suggesting an evacuation – stay put.  Your very best chance of survival is to remain in your home or your office or even the shopping mall if that is where you happen to be.

FEMA defines Shelter in Place as the process of staying where you are and taking shelter, rather than trying to evacuate. Here are some guidelines from FEMA’s Ready America website:

Shelter in Place and Seal the Room

  • Bring your family and pets inside.
  • Lock doors, close windows, air vents and fireplace dampers.
  • Turn off fans, air conditioning and forced air heating systems.
  • Take your emergency supply kit unless you have reason to believe it has been contaminated.
  • Go into an interior room with few windows, if possible.
  • Seal all windows, doors and air vents with plastic sheeting and duct tape. Consider measuring and cutting the sheeting in advance to save time.
  • Be prepared to improvise and use what you have on hand to seal gaps so that you create a barrier between yourself and any contamination.
  • Local authorities may not immediately be able to provide information on what is happening and what you should do. However, you should watch TV, listen to the radio or check the Internet often for official news and instructions as they become available.


Learn how and when to turn off utilities:

If there is damage to your home or you are instructed to turn off your utilities:

  • Locate the electric, gas and water shut-off valves.
  • Keep necessary tools near gas and water shut-off valves.
  • Teach family members how to turn off utilities.
  • If you turn the gas off, a professional must turn it back on. Do not attempt to do this yourself.

The Final Word

There are plenty of resources on the web that can provide you with additional information about creating a shelter in place.  But for now, get yourself some 2-4 mil plastic and duct tape.  That, plus your emergency food, stored water, first aid kit, and radio will be a positive step forward in being prepared.

Enjoy your next adventure through common sense and thoughtful preparation!

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Emergency Mylar Thermal Blankets (Pack of 10): This was the #1 item. For less than $10, these thermal blankets provide compact emergency protection in all weather conditions.

Streamlight Nano Light Miniature Keychain LED Flashlight: You know how I love my little flashlight. I have ad mine for over a year and it is still going strong. About $7.

Potable Aqua Water Treatment Tablets: Another inexpensive basic for your bug out bag and your home. Water treatment tabs won’t improve the taste but they will make your water safe to drink.

Kershaw OSO Sweet Knife: You can’t beat a Kershaw knife for quality at a reasonable price point. Typically under $23, this knife will become your favorite for every day carry. And that includes the ladies, too.

Smith’s PP1 Pocket Pal Multifunction Sharpener: I wrote about this is in the article The Easy Way to Sharpen a Knife Without Spending a Lot of Money. It sharpens everything from pocket knives to kitchen blades. Portable and easy to use and for about $8.

The Doom and Bloom Survival Medicine Handbook: This book will teach you how to deal with all the likely medical issues you will face in a disaster situation, and shows you strategies to keep your family healthy even in the worse scenarios. You’ll learn skills like performing a physical exam, transporting the injured patient, and even how to suture a wound. This medical reference belongs in every survival library!

Emergency Fire Starter: Hugely popular with my readers, this inexpensive magnesium emergency fire starter will do the job for less than $5.

Dorcy 41-1071 LED Wireless Motion Sensor Flood Lite: This light is awesome. I use mine downstairs as well as on my stairway and when I get up in the middle of the night, they come on automatically. They are quite unobtrusive (I have the black one) and give off a ton of light. Runs for a year on 3 D size batteries. About $20.

Clara’s Kitchen: Wisdom, Memories, and Recipes from the Great Depression: If you don’t know about Clara, be sure to read Depression Cooking: A Visit to Clara’s Kitchen.

SE 5 in 1 Survival Whistle: Just a tad over two bucks – and the #1 seller in camping signal whistles at Amazon.


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Learn How to Shelter in Place — 6 Comments

  1. Just a brief congrats on your excellent description of how to shelter-in-place. And also to let you know that the technique has been used to good effect numerous times here in the Gulf coast region. Living near Houston, we’ve seen emergency personnel issue shelter-in-place instructions for such things as refinery fires, explosions, pipeline ruptures, explosions, fires and chemical plant explosions, etc. For whatever reason, developers seem to find it profitable to build human dwellings within quarter mile radius of such facilities and oddly enough, many people live in these subdivisions. Now an interesting side-bar comment is that the shelter-in-place type order is usually used where there’s fear of a “fall-out” type event, fall-out that is of noxious fumes, poison gases, clouds of debris, etc. However, shelter-in-place isn’t recommended for some events such as Hurricanes. Also, shelter-in-place is sometimes used as a measure of last resort when time doesn’t permit any other type precaution. Obviously, we can see the Hurricanes coming our way.

    Of late, here along the gulf coast we’ve become somewhat skeptical of the shelter-in-place orders when it comes to larger events such as hurricanes because the gov’t authorities seem to be playing about with a new paradigm relative to catastrophic storms, i.e. selective, orchestrated evacuations. Thus, we’ve seen them “advise” SIP for those living inland, typically 40 to 60 miles from the coast, and on high ground, while attempting to “time” evacuation orders for coastal and low lying areas. This arrangement has come into practice because of the lack of manageable freeway/highway evacuation lanes. Thus, they try to evacuate those, on the coast say, first and then have those in the low lying areas “near” or bounding the coast, follow-in behind those from say, Galveston. The result has been that during the Ike hurricane, the evacuation was far more orderly and the numbers of people successfully evacuated prior to landfall was very high, upwards of a million or more. The downside was that many took the hint to shelter in place only to fall victim to tornadoes, flash flooding, flying debris, falling trees and of course the “miseries” of the weeks long aftermath without electricity. As a result, many now refer to Shelter-in-Place as “Die-in-Place” and have taken the rather cynical view that what the gov’t really wants is to evacuate it’s “client” classes at the expense of everyone else. I don’t really think that’s the case; I think they’re simply trying to perfect their evacuation procedures and believe me, compared to the Katrina/Rita debacle, they’ve done a fine job.

    Having said all that I’d add this last comment to the effect that nothing, and I mean nothing beats having a “get-away” to get away too, especially if you’ve got small kids or, as in my case, grand-kids. Our “get-away” is 300 miles from Harris county and 150 miles from any major city. The caveat which must be followed however is that a get-away doesn’t work for the clueless; one must remain ever vigilant and watchful of the news and weather information. Thus, when Ike came our way, my wife, daughters, 4 grand-kids, (and the dog) were safely “sheltered” in place at the get-away a week before the storm hit. And the reason that nothing beats a get-away, especially when you have small children? You ever try to survive with 4 yapping kiddos barely out of diapers when the grocery shelves are bare, the power is out, the nightime temperature is 98 and the humidity is 100%?????? Yea, try that for two weeks!

  2. I have a simple question:
    After you set yourself up in your home according to the shelter in place directions, all the air supply is practically cut off from the outside, right?
    So how long will your air supply last in that room?
    Just wondering…

      • I have been researching this an author named f. j. Bohan has wrote a book called Emergency Air you may want to pass the info on. it gives inexpensive ways to provide air for SIP. the other alternative is costly over 5K for air replacement units.

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