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Choosing to take shelter is necessary in many emergencies.
Taking appropriate shelter is critical in times of disaster. Sheltering is appropriate when conditions require that you seek protection in your home, place of employment or other location when disaster strikes. Sheltering outside the hazard area could include staying with friends and relatives, seeking commercial lodging or staying in a mass care facility operated by disaster relief groups.
To effectively shelter, you must first consider the hazard and then choose a place in your home or other building that is safe for that hazard. For example, for a tornado, a room should be selected that is in a basement or an interior room on the lowest level away from corners, windows, doors and outside walls.
The safest locations to seek shelter vary by hazard. Be Informed about the sheltering suggestions for each hazard.
There may be situations, depending on your circumstances and the nature of the disaster, when it's simply best to stay where you are and avoid any uncertainty outside by “sheltering in place.
The length of time you are required to shelter may be short, such as during a tornado warning, or long, such as during a winter storm or a pandemic. It is important that you stay in shelter until local authorities say it is safe to leave. Additionally, you should take turns listening to radio broadcasts and maintain a 24-hour safety watch.
During extended periods of sheltering, you will need to manage water and food supplies to ensure you and your family have the required supplies and quantities. Read the section about Managing Water and Managing Food.
Mass Care Shelter
Even though mass care shelters often provide water, food, medicine and basic sanitary facilities, you should plan to take your disaster supplies kit with you so you will have the supplies you require. Mass care sheltering can involve living with many people in a confined space, which can be difficult and unpleasant. To avoid conflicts in the stressful situation, it is important to cooperate with shelter managers and others assisting them. Keep in mind that alcoholic beverages and weapons are forbidden in emergency shelters and smoking is restricted.
Search for open shelters by texting SHELTER and a Zip Code to 43362 (4FEMA). Ex: Shelter 01234 (standard rates apply)
Guidelines for Staying Put (Sheltering In Place)
Whether you are at home, work or elsewhere, there may be situations when it's simply best to stay where you are and avoid any uncertainty outside.
There may be circumstances when staying put and creating a barrier between yourself and potentially contaminated air outside, a process known as "sealing the room," is a matter of survival.
Use common sense and available information to assess the situation and determine if there is immediate danger. If you see large amounts of debris in the air, or if local authorities say the air is badly contaminated, you may want to take this kind of action.
The process used to seal the room is considered a temporary protective measure to create a barrier between you and potentially contaminated air outside. It is a type of sheltering in place that requires preplanning.
•Bring your family and pets inside.
•Lock doors, close windows, air vents and fireplace dampers.
•Turn off fans, air conditioning and forced air heating systems.
•Take your emergency supply kit unless you have reason to believe it has been contaminated.
•Go into an interior room with few windows, if possible.
•Seal all windows, doors and air vents with 2-4 mil. thick plastic sheeting and duct tape. Consider measuring and cutting the sheeting in advance to save time.
•Cut the plastic sheeting several inches wider than the openings and label each sheet.
•Duct tape plastic at corners first and then tape down all edges.
•Be prepared to improvise and use what you have on hand to seal gaps so that you create a barrier between yourself and any contamination.
•Local authorities may not immediately be able to provide information on what is happening and what you should do. However, you should watch TV, listen to the radio or check the Internet often for official news and instructions as they become available.
Essentials of Managing Water
Allow people to drink according to their needs
Many people need even more than the average of one gallon per day. The individual amount needed depends on age, physical activity, physical condition and time of year.
Never ration drinking water unless ordered to do so by authorities.
Drink the amount you need today and try to find more for tomorrow. Under no circumstances should a person drink less than one quart (four cups) of water each day. You can minimize the amount of water your body needs by reducing activity and staying cool.
Drink water that you know is not contaminated first.
If necessary, suspicious water, such as cloudy water from regular faucets or water from streams or ponds, can be used after it has been treated. If water treatment is not possible, put off drinking suspicious water as long as possible, but do not become dehydrated.
Do not drink carbonated beverages instead of drinking water.
Carbonated beverages do not meet drinking-water requirements. Caffeinated drinks and alcohol dehydrate the body, which increases the need for drinking water.
Turn off the main water valves.
You will need to protect the water sources already in your home from contamination if you hear reports of broken water or sewage lines or if local officials advise you of a problem. To close the incoming water source, locate the incoming valve and turn it to the closed position. Be sure you and your family members know how to perform this important procedure.
Melted ice cubes.
Liquids from canned goods such as fruit or vegetables.
Water drained from pipes. To use the water in your pipes, let air into the plumbing by turning on the faucet in your home at the highest level. A small amount of water will trickle out. Then obtain water from the lowest faucet in the home.
Water drained from the water heater. To use water in your hot-water tank, be sure the electricity or gas is off and open the drain at the bottom of the tank. Start the water flowing by turning off the water intake valve at the tank and turning on the hot-water faucet. After you are notified that clean water has been restored, you will need to refill the tank before turning the gas or electricity back on. If the gas is turned off, a professional will be needed to turn it back on.
Radiators Hot water boilers (home heating systems).
Water from the toilet bowl or flush tank.
Water beds. Fungicides added to the water or chemicals in the vinyl may make water unsafe to use.
Swimming pools and spas. Chemicals used to kill germs are too concentrated for safe drinking but can be used for personal hygiene, cleaning and related uses.
If you have used all of your stored water and there are no other reliable clean water sources, it may become necessary in an emergency situation to treat suspicious water. Treat all water of uncertain quality before using it for drinking, food washing or preparation, washing dishes, brushing teeth or making ice. In addition to having a bad odor and taste, contaminated water can contain microorganisms (germs) that cause diseases such as dysentery, cholera, typhoid and hepatitis.
There are many ways to treat water. None is perfect. Often the best solution is a combination of methods. Before treating, let any suspended particles settle to the bottom or strain them through coffee filters or layers of clean cloth. Make sure you have the necessary materials in your disaster supplies kit for the chosen water treatment method.
Boiling is the safest method of treating water. In a large pot or kettle, bring water to a rolling boil for one full minute, keeping in mind that some water will evaporate. Let the water cool before drinking.
Boiled water will taste better if you put oxygen back into it by pouring the water back and forth between two clean containers. This also will improve the taste of stored water.
You can use household liquid bleach to kill microorganisms. Use only regular household liquid bleach that contains 5.25 to 6.0 percent sodium hypochlorite. Do not use scented bleaches, color safe bleaches or bleaches with added cleaners. Because the potency of bleach diminishes with time, use bleach from a newly opened or unopened bottle.
Add 16 drops (1/8 teaspoon) of bleach per gallon of water, stir and let stand for 30 minutes. The water should have a slight bleach odor. If it doesn’t, then repeat the dosage and let stand another 15 minutes. If it still does not smell of chlorine, discard it and find another source of water.
Other chemicals, such as iodine or water treatment products sold in camping or surplus stores that do not contain 5.25 or 6.0 percent sodium hypochlorite as the only active ingredient, are not recommended and should not be used.
While boiling and chlorination will kill most microbes in water, distillation will remove microbes (germs) that resist these methods, as well as heavy metals, salts and most other chemicals. Distillation involves boiling water and then collection of only the vapor that condenses. The condensed vapor will not include salt or most other impurities. To distill, fill a pot halfway with water.
Tie a cup to the handle on the pot’s lid so that the cup will hang right-side-up when the lid is upside-down (make sure the cup is not dangling into the water) and boil the water for 20 minutes. The water that drips from the lid into the cup is distilled.
Effectiveness of Water Treatment Methods
Removes other contaminants (heavy metals, salts, and most other chemicals)
Consider the following things when putting together your emergency food supplies:
Store at least a three-day supply of non-perishable food.
Choose foods your family will eat.
Remember any special dietary needs.
Avoid foods that will make you thirsty.
Choose salt-free crackers, whole grain cereals and canned foods with high liquid content.
Following a disaster, there may be power outages that could last for several days. Stock canned foods, dry mixes and other staples that do not require refrigeration, cooking, water or special preparation. Be sure to include a manual can opener and eating utensils.
Suggested Emergency Food Supplies
The following items are suggested when selecting emergency food supplies. You may already have many of these on hand.
¨Ready-to-eat canned meats, fruits, vegetables and a can opener ¨Protein or fruit bars ¨Dry cereal or granola
¨Peanut butter ¨Dried fruit ¨Nuts ¨Crackers ¨Canned juices ¨Non-perishable pasteurized milk ¨High energy foods
¨Vitamins ¨Food for infants ¨Comfort/stress foods
Food Safety & Sanitation
Flood, fire, national disaster or the loss of power from high winds, snow or ice could jeopardize the safety of your food. Knowing what to do before and after an emergency can help you reduce your risk of illness and minimize the amount of food that may be lost due to spoilage.
Power outages can occur at any time of the year and it may take from a few hours to several days for electricity to be restored to residential areas. Without electricity or a cold source, food stored in refrigerators and freezers can become unsafe. Bacteria in food grow rapidly at temperatures between 40 and 140 °F, and if these foods are consumed, people can become very sick.
Keep food in covered containers.
Keep cooking and eating utensils clean.
Keep garbage in closed containers and dispose outside, burying garbage if necessary.
Keep your hands clean by washing them frequently with soap and water that has been boiled or disinfected.
Discard any food that has come into contact with contaminated floodwater.
Discard any food that has been at room temperature for two hours or more.
Discard any food that has an unusual odor, color or texture.
Use ready-to-feed formula, if possible, for formula-fed infants. If using ready-to-feed formula is not possible, it is best to use bottled water to prepare powdered or concentrated formula. If bottled water is not available, use boiled water. Use treated water to prepare formula only if you do not have bottled or boiled water. Breastfed infants should continue breastfeeding.
Eat foods from cans that are swollen, dented or corroded, even though the product may look safe to eat.
Eat any food that looks or smells abnormal, even if the can looks normal.
Let garbage accumulate inside, both for fire and sanitation reasons.
Note: Thawed food usually can be eaten if it is still “refrigerator cold.” It can be re-frozen if it still contains ice crystals. To be safe, remember, “When in doubt, throw it out.”
Alternative cooking sources in times of emergency including candle warmers, chafing dishes, fondue pots or a fireplace.
Charcoal grills and camp stoves are for outdoor use only.
Commercially canned food may be eaten out of the can without warming.
To heat food in a can:
1. Remove the label.
2. Thoroughly wash and disinfect the can. (Use a diluted solution of one part bleach to ten parts water.)
3. Open the can before heating.
Managing Food without Power
Have a refrigerator thermometer.
Know where you can get dry ice.
Keep a few days’ worth of ready-to-eat foods on hand that do not require cooking or cooling.
When the Power Goes Out:
Keep the refrigerator and freezer doors closed as much as possible.
The refrigerator will keep food cold for about 4 hours if it is unopened.
Refrigerators should be kept at 40° F or below for proper food storage.
Once the Power is Restored:
Check the temperature inside the refrigerator and freezer.
If an appliance thermometer was kept in the freezer, check the temperature when the power comes back on. If the freezer thermometer reads 40° F or below, the food is safe and may be refrozen. If a thermometer has not been kept in the freezer, check each package of food to determine its safety. You can't rely on appearance or odor. If the food still contains ice crystals or is 40° F or below, it is safe to refreeze or cook.
Refrigerated food should be safe as long as the power was out for no more than 4 hours. Keep the door closed as much as possible.
Discard any perishable food (such as meat, poultry, fish, eggs or leftovers) that has been above 40° F for two hours or more.
Using Dry Ice:
Under normal circumstances you should not keep dry ice in your freezer. If your freezer is functioning properly it will cause the unit to become too cold and your freezer may shut off. However, if you lose power for an extended period of time, dry ice is the best ways to keep things cold.
Twenty-five pounds of dry ice will keep a 10-cubic-foot freezer below freezing for 3-4 days.
If you use dry ice to keep your food cold, make sure it does not come in direct contact with the food.
Use care when handling dry ice, wear dry, heavy gloves to avoid injury