As we move into spring and its potential for severe storms, it’s important to know about the different types of sheltering orders.
Different hazards call for different protective actions. Severe storms require storm sheltering. There are different sheltering methods for a year-round hazard: HAZMAT (hazardous chemical) spills. This is often on our minds here at DEM because of our work in CSEPP, which focuses on the chemical weapons stockpile at Blue Grass Army Depot.
Shelter in Place
If a HAZMAT incident occurs, emergency responders may issue a shelter in place order. This phrase means it’s dangerous to go outside because of airborne chemicals that may present an inhalation or skin contact risk. When you’re under shelter in place orders, you should make your current location as safe as possible by isolating it from outside air.
Go to a room on the upper level of a building. Why the upper level? If a hazardous chemical is lighter than air, it will rise away from you as it disperses. However, if it’s heavier than air, it will stay low to the ground, spreading into basements and ground floors first. Therefore, getting to an upper level of a building maximizes your protection.
Shut off all fans, air conditioners, and air handling equipment – anything that circulates outside air or draws it into the building.
Get a battery-powered radio so you will know when the danger has passed or when authorities issue additional instructions.
Pick a room with as few doors, windows, and vents as possible. Seal all cracks with wet towels, or with tape and plastic sheeting if available.
Be prepared for power to go out. Responders may need to do this to fight fires or shut down industrial machinery involved in the incident.
No two HAZMAT incidents are the same, so stay tuned to local news sources for updated information on protective actions. Don’t call 9-1-1 for more information – contact emergency dispatchers only if you’re injured or need assistance.