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Sheltering in Place - Topic Overview

In many types of public health emergencies, the safest thing to do is simply to stay indoors. If the air is unsafe because of an incident involving hazardous chemicals, radiation, or an aerosol release of a biological agent, local authorities may advise you to "shelter in place," which limits your exposure to the outside air.

To shelter in place:

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  1. Make sure all family members and pets that are at home are inside. Then close and lock all doors and windows.
  2. Turn off air conditioners, air exchangers, fans, and furnaces. Close vents and fireplace dampers.
  3. Move to an inner room, preferably at or above ground level and without windows. (If the incident involves radiation, authorities may tell you to take shelter in a basement.) If you have an emergency supplies kit, take it with you. At the very least, make sure that you have a battery-powered radio and flashlight and plenty of drinking water. You can also use a radio or flashlight that is powered by a hand crank and so does not need batteries.
  4. If local authorities advise you to do so, use duct tape to secure plastic sheeting around door and window frames.
  5. Stay tuned in to the local news, and stay inside until local authorities say that it is safe to come out.

    This information is produced and provided by the National Cancer Institute (NCI). The information in this topic may have changed since it was written. For the most current information, contact the National Cancer Institute via the Internet web site at http:// cancer .gov or call 1-800-4-CANCER.

    WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

    Last Updated: April 16, 2013
    This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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