In October of 2009 in the county of Contra Costa, California a teenager mixed dangerous chemicals inside his home in an attempt to commit suicide. Residents living in the area complained about the fumes and unusual smells. Many suffered from severe chest pain. The local county issued a shelter-in-place order for all immediate surrounding areas. As well, on August 6th, 2012 the City of Richmond, California issued a shelter-in-place advisory for a fire at the Chevron Richmond Refinery. Toxic fumes traveled through the air into homes where many complained of respiratory issues. And lastly, on October 29th, 2012 the City of Louisville, Kentucky declared an emergency and issued a shelter-in-place advisory after a train loaded with dangerous chemicals derailed and exploded near Katherine Station.
Should I Evacuate or Shelter-In-Place?
Local authorities are the best people to know whether a scenario warrants an evacuation or a shelter-in-place advisory. It’s important to listen to the radio when you suspect an emergency event to have occurred. For example, officials in the City of Mississauga, Ontario, Canada decided to evacuate over 200,000 people after a train derailed and exploded on November 10th, 1979. The train cars were carrying dangerous chemicals such as butane, propane, styrene, propylene, toluene, and chlorine.
How to shelter-in-place?
1. Lock all Car & House Windows including Interior & Exterior Doors.
Your windows and doors should be locked and shut tight. Any open windows or doors will present an extreme danger to all the passengers inside your vehicle and residents inside your home.
2. Turn off all fans, heating and A/C systems to avoid drawing in outside air.
If you are inside your home or vehicle ensure you turn off all the fans for heating or air conditioning. That includes internally circulating air inside your car. While many manufacturers have significantly improved air filters, it’s never worth the risk of drawing deadly chemicals into your vehicle or home.
3. Get out your emergency kit, radio and N95 masks
Take out the N95 masks that are included inside your emergency kit and securely fasten them around your mouth and nose. Take out your emergency radio and listen for any emergency broadcasts regarding the shelter-in-place advisory.
4. Go to a room that’s above ground with no windows
If you’re inside your home, go to a room that has no windows and is above ground level. Doing this ensures you have the best possible chance of reducing your exposure to poisonous chemicals. Some chemicals are heavier than others and can’t travel above ground. For that reason, its prudent to take shelter above ground.
5. Use duct tape to seal all cracks around doors and vents.
Use the duct tape from your emergency kit to seal all the cracks around your windows and doors; inside your vehicle or at home. The gap between your doors and windows becomes the most vulnerable point of exposure. A tiny hole can expose you to harmful chemicals and result in significant injury. For this reason, duct tape is used to help create an airtight seal that ensures your safety.
Follow these steps and be ready the next time an order to shelter-in-place is announced. Remember have your personal emergency kit and roadside emergency kit available at all times, it’s not just a bag, it’s your family’s life.
- By Daniele Levis Pelusi