Shelter in Place

Shelter-in-Place is the action of seeking immediate shelter indoors in an “interior safe area.”

“Interior Safe Area” – (assembly area for building occupants). Features of an interior safe area may include:

  • Above the ground floor or basement/ lowest level, depending on the nature of the emergency
  • Minimal windows and vents
  • Adequate space for anticipated occupancy allowing approximately 10 square feet per person
  • Hallways, conference/meeting rooms, break areas or restrooms may be considered
  • Also, consider access to hard-wired phone service in case radios or cell phone systems are compromised during the emergency.

When to Initiate Shelter-in-Place
Shelter-in-Place will be activated in the event of a chemical, hazardous material or biological incident; smoke or ash resulting from a fire; tornado warning; shooting; or act of terrorism. The director of public safety, in consultation with the Crisis Management Team may decide that Shelter-in-Place is the safest procedure based upon the scope of the emergency and the lack of sufficient time to effectively notify all faculty, staff and students for a safe evacuation.

Time is the most critical element when responding and acting during a crisis situation. Under conditions where external evacuation may expose the campus community to contaminated air or to danger, Shelter-in-Place is employed when safe movement to evacuation shelters cannot be completed in a manner that is time efficient and safe for evacuees. Also, extreme excitement in large crowds may cause panic that could lead to stampeding during disorderly evacuation from a building. Safety is paramount and the act of evacuation should proceed without causing further damages or injury.

Other factors influencing the decision to Shelter-in-Place are the proximity of the chemical or hazardous material attack, spill or accident to campus; the condition of campus utilities and the natural environmental conditions such as weather, time of day and year.

Steps to Shelter-in-Place

  • Close all doors and windows
  • If possible, close or seal air vents
  • Close window shades, blinds or curtains
  • If possible, seal gaps around doors and windows with wet towels and tape
  • Turn off air handling (HVAC) equipment or set to ‘re-circulate’ to minimize introduction of outside air into building
  • Shut down all experiments/operations
  • Post “Shelter-in-Place in effect. No Entry or Exit,” signs at all entrances and exits.
  • Move all occupants to an interior room away from windows.
  • Remain indoors until an “all clear” message is received from the director of public safety or an authorized emergency official.
  • Following “all clear” announcement, open doors and windows and turn on ventilation systems until indoor air has been exchanged with fresh air.