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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. The hepa filter vacuum is an interesting solution. I know that as an emergency manager when we look at ordering shelter in place as a solution we have to keep in mind that at some point it becomes counterproductive and contaminant levels can get higher in the house than it is inside.

  2. When it comes down to it. Whether body, home or country, the key is being prepared—which means boosting defenses from the inside. So you exercise and eat right, but are you eating the right things to boost your immune system?! Politics, dangers abound, we need to be aware, but isn’t why we prepare is so we can survive? The defenses described above are great defensive measures as the backup for your personal immune system. As anything else, common sense helps keep us from hysteria and panic. There will be those who choose to use events happening around us for good or bad. WE have the choice in how we respond.
    Just because you know the field you’re walking through has rattlesnakes, do you avoid it, if you must reach the other side? Or are you more alert while walking through; having taken proper precautions like having a sidearm, wearing boots, wearing sun shields so your vision isn’t impeded and keeping the phone/electronics off so you can hear and be attentive to the moment.

  3. Hmmmm so for those saying it is airborne…. if there were a pandemic say with people in your neighborhood having contracted Ebola would you actually seal up your ENTIRE home, vents and all as pictured above??? Thanks in advance!!

  4. another way to look at this is, being prepared,
    even if it is just fear mongering. I will prepare.
    Enola Is an airborne disease, because it is Haemorrhagic Fever, it is air-borne. also, if it cant be easily contracted, why the concern and why are they using protective gear? Me personally, I think that with all the illegals being allowed to stay here and having already been shipped out to most of the 50 states, and flying sick people in from west africa, we are being set up for medical Marshal Law, only a matter of time. Me, I’ll prepare as best as I can.

    • Are you perhaps speaking of the Marshall Plan at the end of WWII? I think not. It’s MARTIAL, please!!

  5. So if there were a pandemic say with people in your neighborhood having contracted Ebola would you actually seal up your ENTIRE home, vents and all as pictured above??? Thanks in advance!!

    • Personally, I wouldn’t. It hasn’t been shown to be airborne, so sealing oneself isn’t needed. I would make plans for an isolation unit in case someone became infected however. AND I am ready to quarantine my family and self while it rages through the community, then leaves. This is to avoid contact, as I am capable of doing so if/when a flu pandemic flies my way.

    • Shaun – I am prepared to seal up two rooms in the upstairs portion of our home. So the answer is yes. Definitely. I am ready to do that.

  6. FEAR – of being prepared?
    So, is it better to worry about the possibility of a pandemic or worry about who is on “dancing with the stars”? (is that show still on??)
    Yes, the ebola virus spread may be a scare tactic, but …. can we really afford to ignore it until it affects us directly?
    Are you saying we should not prepare? Or just that we should not prepare for an ebola pandemic? Wouldn’t preparing for an ebola pandemic also prepare you for other disasters?
    Who would be feeling the most foolish, someone who prepared for something that did not occur, or someone who blithly went on their way without preparing and suddenly the pandemic was all around them, affecting their family and loved ones?
    As for any “vaccine” – I personally will not voluntarily take one. I will try my best to keep my immune system in good working condition, avoid unneccesary risks in personal contacts, stock food and other items to shelter in place, and other things that could help if the pandemic does occur, or any other disaster.
    By saying that the possibility of an ebola pandemic is just “FEAR MONGERING” by the media is, basically, calling anyone who does prepare an idiot. No thank you. You who do not prepare are the idiots!

    JMO (Just My Opinion)

    • I hope everyone will forgive me for the multiple posts. For some reason each time I posted it just “vanished”! No response that the post needed moderated or anything. Most unusual, so I thought I may have had a computer error and posted again. Rebooted the computer, changed my ip settings and still got the same result. Then suddenly all three posts were showing. Unfortunately there is no way for my to delete any of them. Just pick one and please ignore the others! 🙂

  7. FEAR.

    Just look at what the globalist agenda accomplished when they murdered some 2,500 people in the “911 attack”. Started yet another U.S. involvement in the middle-east perpetual wars… and provided enough FEAR to make most Americans willfully allow their personal freedoms and rights be taken from them under the Patriot Act.

    Current estimates report that there are approximately 7,000,000,000 (7 Billion) people in the world. There has been less than 3,500 EBOLA-related deaths reported in the world since the the government-media hype has been deployed. There has been only 6 people infected with EBOLA in the U.S.


    What an clever strategy for the globalist to place even more restrictions and controls on the millions and billios of people all over the entire world. Personal travel and mobility restrictions and controls everywhere. In the coming days and months stay tuned and watch how they increase the FEAR to increase the control over people everywhere… and with the fearful people asking for it and even demanding it.

    Our greatest FEAR should be that we allow ourselves to be deceived by those who seek to control us. We must try to THINK and put the propaganda in real perspective.

    • Ok, I’ve seen this elsewhere. So, you seem to think we should be more worried about who is on dancing with the stars? (is that show still on??) Don’t take any extra protective actions? Don’t prepare to possibly have to shelter at home? Don’t stock extra food? Don’t try to improve your immune system?
      I’m not saying to FEAR ebola. However, you should RESPECT it. It has a great possibility to continue mutating and you could suddenly find it in your family. Or to continue to BE mutated! Will I volunter to take any, so called, vaccine? NO! But, I will prepare for the “possibility” of a local or widespread outbreak of it.
      Yes, do not panic and give in to fear. But, prepare for any possibility – including ebola!

      JMO (Just My Opinion)

    • FEAR? – – – FOOLS?????

      Are you saying that people are fools to prepare? Prepaing for an ebola pandemic also prepares for many other disasters.
      And what if the ebola virus is intentionally spread? Not being prepared could lead to a very bad death for you or your loved ones.
      Sorry, altho I don’t “fear” the possibility of an ebola pandemic, I also am not going to ignore it. I will prepare to the best of my ability for that and other disasters.

  8. Thanks for such great information! There are 2 times of the year when I kind of have to do something similar due to allergies. I’ve always used my AC for that, now this gives me another option. 🙂

  9. HI Again,
    One suggestion for your list to hunker down. GET ONE & DONE baby wipes. I have tried them all including Amway. These are the biggest & strongest. wipe your body- two can give you a fairly good clean up. Wipe your hands, wipe of silver ware in case of no water. If they dry out, just add 1/2 cup of water. If the top ones get a little dry, turn the container upside down. I use them to dust with including the dash of my car. Just toss ’em. scrape off muddy boots & shoes then wipe them off- toss the wipe. Take camping, etc. I sent a list to the company for advertising and I guess they did not want to use it.
    Elaine Kettring
    Gallatin, MO
    (I sent the poor man’s barter item list)

    • Great idea Elaine! In the spirit of self-reliance may I add, there are DIY wet ones which can be made from paper towels. Though I do hate waste, this is one area where re-using may not work if you can’t sterilize your wipes. 🙂

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