Emergency shelters can be any place or structure that gives protection.
While it can be a tent, a cave, a lean-to, or an underground shelter, hopefully in a crisis, it can still be your home. Not all disaster situations will render your home unable to give you emergency shelter.
But if your home has been destroyed, then temporary shelters like tents, or community centers would be necessary.
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Deciding to stay put (shelter in place) or evacuate will depend on the type of disaster. You should have a plan for either choice and evaluate the scenarios of disasters that could happen in your area. Use common sense and check with your county, state, or city government for their evacuation plans well ahead of any crisis.
First you will need to determine if there is immediate danger. In any emergency, local authorities may or may not immediately be able to provide information on what is happening and what you should do. However, you should monitor TV or radio news reports for information or official instructions as they become available. If you're specifically told to evacuate or seek medical treatment, do so immediately.
If your children are at school, they will be sheltered there. Unless you are specifically instructed to do so, do not try to get to the school to bring your children home.
If a shelter-at-home alert is announced, act quickly and follow the instructions of your local emergency coordinators. Every situation can be different and local emergency coordinators might have special instructions for you to follow. In general, do the following:
Choose a room in your home or business to use as a shelter. The best room would be a room with as few windows and doors as possible. A large room with a water supply is best, something like a master bedroom that is connected to a bathroom.
For a chemical attack, this room should be as high in the building as possible to avoid gases that sink. This is different than the sheltering techniques for severe storms, when the shelter should be at the lowest level of your home, such as a basement.
Sheltering this way will keep you safer than if you are outdoors. Most likely, you will not be in your emergency shelter for more than a few hours. Listen to your radio for announcements indicating that it is safe to leave your shelter.
Do you have a plan for sheltering in place? Be sure you have plenty of supplies to keep your family warm and sheltered. Find what you need here.
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