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Shelter in Place

What to do if a dangerous chemical is ever accidentally spilled or released in your neighborhood.

The world we live in today is an industrial one.  We make, move, and use products created from chemicals that can be hazardous to humans. As a result, there is a remote possibility that a hazardous chemical could be spilled during a train derailment, a freeway accident, or a manufacturing accident.  A hazardous chemical could be a solid, liquid or a gas.  That means you might not be able to see or smell anything.  Still, it can be quite dangerous.  

How do you tell if there is a hazardous chemical emergency?  Most often, you will be notified by the local authorities.  You should take action if you  notice any of the following:

  • An unusual smell or sound, such as an explosion
  • Visible smoke, fire, or a vapor cloud
  • Skin or eye irritation
  • Breathing difficulty

How to Shelter in Place

If a hazardous chemical emergency occurs in your neighborhood, the most important thing to remember is to take action quickly.  During a hazardous chemical emergency, you should go inside and stay put.  This procedure is called Shelter in Place.  You can use your entire house or only a few rooms.  Make sure you choose an area that has a telephone, water, a toilet, and someplace you can seal off easily.  A bedroom is an excellent choice.

  • Go inside
  • Turn off heaters and air conditioners and close fireplace dampers
  • Close and seal all doors and windows
  • Cover you nose and mouth with a wet cloth if necessary
  • Listen to your radio or TV
  • Wait for the all clear signal before you move outside

Be Aware and Prepare

Create an emergency plan just like you do in the event of a fire, earthquake, or any other kind of emergency.  Include in the plan the steps you will take to protect yourself and your family.

Make a checklist of what needs to be done.  Next, assign tasks.  Each person in the family should have a job for which they are capable and responsible. 

Add to the emergency kit you may already have for earthquakes.  Inside, keep an updated emergency phone list that includes the phone numbers for a doctor, the closest emergency room, fire and police.  Also note the local TV channels and radio stations with frequent news broadcasts.

Make sure your emergency kit includes the following:

  • two rolls of duct tape
  • scissors
  • towels
  • drinking water
  • toilet supplies and any necessary medications
  • a portable, battery operated radio
  • a flashlight
  • extra batteries and once again,
  • your checklist

Store your emergency kit in a place you can get to quickly and easily.  Then rehearse by having emergency drills.

If you would like a complete copy of our informational brochure explaining how to "Shelter in Place", it is available here in Adobe Acrobat portable document format. You will need to have the Acrobat Reader installed on your computer, free from Adobe. )

  Shelter in Place

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