What if you can't evacuate? Prepare to shelter at home

By Joe Dougherty

For the Deseret News

Published: Sunday, March 4 2012 10:20 p.m. MST

Editor's note: This article is part of a series on earthquake preparation. Read the rest of the articles here.

If your home catches fire or if a flood threatens, you get out, flee, run away. But in certain types of emergencies, outside is the last place you want to be.

Heading outside during a chemical leak, in the aftermath of a nuclear blast or after a dirty bomb incident could be the worst decision you can make, exposing yourself to the event’s deadly effects. But after a major earthquake during winter, your home could be a better alternative to going outside against the elements.

Be Ready Utah, the state’s emergency preparedness campaign, is bringing you preparedness information each week to help you get ready for disaster and the Great Utah ShakeOut, now with more than 700,000 Utahns participating. The ShakeOut is the state’s largest earthquake drill ever, and you’re invited to participate by signing up at ShakeOut.org/Utah.

In times of emergency, you may need to be ready and able to seal yourself in your home. That means being prepared to stay there for an extended period of time. We call it sheltering in place.

Sheltering in place doesn’t happen automatically. There are some steps you can take this week to start your sheltering plans.

Here’s what you need to do beforehand:

Make sure you’re informed about different hazards. Each requires different sheltering considerations.

To shelter for a chemical, nuclear or radiological event, gather duct tape and plastic sheeting.

Cut the plastic sheeting several inches wider than doors and windows and label each piece.

Have access to a radio or Internet in the room you’ll shelter in.

Here’s how you use your supplies when you have to shelter in place:

Close all windows in your home.

Turn off all fans, heating and air conditioning systems and close the fireplace damper.

Turn on your radio and listen for emergency information.

Go to an above-ground room (not the basement) with the fewest windows and doors.

Bring your food storage with you.

Use the plastic sheeting to cover windows, doors, outlets and heat registers. Tape the corners first, then tape the sides.

If you are told there is danger of explosion, close the window shades, blinds or curtains. To avoid injury, stay away from the windows.

Stay in the room and listen to your radio until you are told all is safe or you are told to evacuate.

More information about sheltering in place can be found at Ready.gov and at BeReadyUtah.gov. Good luck in your new steps to preparedness this week.

Joe Dougherty is a preparedness expert and spokesman for the Utah Division of Emergency Management and Be Ready Utah. Send your tips to jdougherty@utah.gov. Daily preparedness tips are at Twitter.com/bereadyutah.

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