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How to Safely Shelter In Place During a Pandemic

Avatar for Gaye Levy Gaye Levy  |  Updated: November 30, 2021
How to Safely Shelter In Place During a Pandemic

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In recent weeks, we have all been bombarded with mainstream news reports about the Ebola virus.  Most of those reports indicate that we have nothing to worry about.  Alas, as preppers and survival-types, we worry about pandemics and runaway viruses along with the myriad of other disasters and disruptive events that may occur at some point down the road.

Many of you may remember book festival author, FJ Bohan.  He and I have stayed in touch and as it turns out, he has become a friend of Backdoor Survival on many fronts.  He is someone who has walked the walk when it comes to living the preparedness lifestyle, so when he has something to say, I listen.

How to Safely Shelter In Place During a Pandemic

With Ebola in the news, Frank has written to me about something we all should be concerned with, namely how to safely shelter in place during a pandemic. What he has to say is important because while we may be familiar with the need for plastic sheeting and duct tape when sheltering in place, what about fresh, filtered air?

An Open Letter from FJ Bohan:  Sheltering in Place During a Pandemic

Dear Gaye and Backdoor Survival readers:

The concerning events of the last few months have had me thinking about writing you.

There are many threats to U.S. citizens in the news. Ebola, along with nearly every third-world disease we as a nation had eliminated decades ago, is back at our door and infiltrating the nation as the masses of illegal immigrants are (transported by our own government), reaching every corner of the country.

Meanwhile, the CDC is busy issuing guidelines to hospitals and mortuaries detailing how to handle Ebola patients and the proper disposal of bodies, but it has yet to announce whether or not Ebola is now an airborne pathogen.

It is for these reasons I fear there may well be a pandemic coming our way soon.

I want to let you and those who follow your website know how to protect themselves and their loved ones should a pandemic crisis come to their neighborhood.

If, indeed, Ebola (or any other virus) is airborne (spread through the air/breathing), isolation is the only true protection. Difficult choices will have to be made by anyone in an area which is infected. Once it has been decided to stay home from work until the pandemic passes from the community, protecting the home will be the next step.

Having stored food, water, and other living essentials already at home may prove to be a life saver. Imagine taking your vacation leave in order to protect your family, only to catch the virus while standing at the checkout counter of the grocery store?

In neighborhoods with confirmed cases of infection, filtering your air might be the only thing that prevents you from acquiring the virus.

In my book, Emergency Air for Shelter-In-Place Preppers and Home-Built Bunkers, I detail how to take a regular wet/dry vac along with a HEPA filter and convert them into an air filter for the home/shelter/bunker.

vacuum cleaner

Ordinary wet/dry vac

Of course, I want everyone to buy my book which covers much more and in greater detail, but everyone needs to know this information.

By using a shop-vac type vacuum (purchased virtually anywhere) along with a HEPA filter that fits the unit and by following the FEMA guidelines for sheltering-in-place (using plastic sheeting and duct tape to seal a room or shelter), anyone can make a flow-room, of sorts, to protect them self from airborne viruses.

EMAIR pg38 380

Buy drawing air from outside of the sealed room and running it through the HEPA filter, the vacuum’s exhaust port will be blowing filtered air into your room. Airborne contaminants will be contained in the vacuum (see my book for details of how to seal the vacuum).

page 29

Even though viruses are smaller in size than the HEPA can filter, they (viruses) generally lack the mass to penetrate the electro-static shield formed over the filter as air flows through it.

I would advise sealing an inner room of the home and drawing air with the vacuum/filter from an adjacent room.

Stay home and indoors.

Do not open your doors to infected people.

Remember to run the vacuum/filter for 10 minutes every half hour and allow a small opening near the floor for CO2 to escape into the adjacent room while the vacuum is running. This will keep the sealed room’s air supply fresh.

NOTE: Failing to run the vacuum or failing to use the system at all will see everyone dead from suffocation!!!   Sealing a room without a filtered air system is just like putting a plastic bag over your head. You will run out of breathable air! Do not follow any FEMA sealed-room instructions without using a filtered air supply!!!

I know, Gaye, you have read my book and realize how important this issue is.  Please feel free to share this letter of concern with your readers.

How to Shelter in Place

Sheltering in place is not difficult.  In the simplest of terms, you take some duct tape and plastic sheeting, add some ventilation and seal yourself up in a room.  The following diagram depicts this setup:


For a downloadable flyer, check out this document from the State of Washington Emergency Management Division:  Sheltering in Place – Creating a “Safe Room” in Your HomeJust don’t forget that you will also need some emergency air as well as food, water, lighting, and amusement (games, puzzles, reading material) to get you through the sheltering period.

The Final Word

In our effort to be prepared, it is easy to overlook some of the basics. Having clean, filtered air during a pandemic can be coupled with protective face masks thus assuring that you will be as safe as you can be.

For more information about hunkering down safely during a pandemic or really, at any other time you need to stay put, be sure to read Preparing to Hunker Down in Place and Surgical Masks for the Survival Kit.

Bargain Bin:  Below you will find links related to today’s article. Most if not all are basic preps you should have on hand, pandemic or not.

Emergency Air for Shelter-In-Place Preppers and Home Built Bunkers: By FJ Bohan. Sheltering in place by sealing in a room is problematic at best since your supply of breathable air is limited. The system detailed in this book allows anyone to breathe safely while under threat and while following FEMA guidelines for sheltering-in-place.

3M N95 Particulate & Respirator Mask: This is an inexpensive mask that can be used in a variety of emergency situations. They come in a box of 20 and are NIOSH-certified. The molded cone design is fluid and splash resistant and will greatly reduce your exposure to airborne particles.

Moldex 2730 N100 Respirator Mask:  Do not confuse P100 masks with the N100s.  N100 is what you want since the P100’s are used to filter particulate only and not gasses and vapors.  For a smaller person, I suggest the Moldex 2731 which is the same mask in a size small.

3M TEKK Protection Chemical Splash/Impact Goggle:  I purchased these based on the reviews and am thrilled with both how they fit and how comfortable they feel.  Highly recommended.

Dynarex Black Nitrile Exam Gloves, Heavy-Duty, Box/100:   Pick your size; both Shelly and I wear a medium.

Disposable Protective Coveralls: There are plenty to choose from and as with the gloves, better to be too large than too small.

No Rinse Cleansing & Deodorizing Bathing Wipes:  One wipe is more than enough for a complete “bath”.  These are a good backup when traditional showers are not available such as the week or weeks following a disaster.  Also good for the sick room as well as camping, boating, hiking and such.

3M Utility Duct Tape:  I am also stocking up on Duct tape.  After reading Duct Tape 911: The Many Amazing Medical Things You Can Do to Tape Yourself Together, I now know it has tons of medical uses.

Living Ready Pocket Manual – First Aid: Fundamentals for Survival:  Whether you are miles from help or immersed in an urban disaster situation, every second count during a medical emergency. This book will help you take quick, effective action to stabilize the situation. One of the best things about this book (other than the information, of course) is its size.  It is small enough to keep in your bug-out-bag and also in your first aid kit.

Bicycle Canasta Games Playing Cards:  This timeless classic will keep the entire family occupied when the power it out.  Playing cards or board games should be in everyone’s preparedness kit.

Ticket To Ride: This my favorite board game, bar none.  Family friendly, you will spend hours in front of the fireplace playing Ticket to Ride with your favorite people.  This is worth the splurge.

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25 Responses to “How to Safely Shelter In Place During a Pandemic”

  1. Hi Everyone

    Everyone is so worried about the known viruses and diseases out there, and I can understand that.
    What would happen if a new and unknown virus or disease suddenly appeared? How would you react then?

    I have read your articles, and it has some very good advice.

  2. This is a link to the best information I have read this year. It will open your eyes. //

  3. useful info.i have the shop vac pictured and never once thought it could be used in that method .I run a hepa air cleaner in my bedroom since my wife likes to let the cats sleep on the bed .I dont care about the whole ebola fear hype this is just useful info for multiple situations

  4. What do you do if there is no electricity and a pandemic like this does break out? How would you seal the room properly but still have an air supply?

    • battery backup,inverter’s recharged with solar panels .a good topic for another article i would say ,hint hint 🙂

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