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Friday, February 19, 2010

Shelter In Place

We're not quite half way through posting about the 12 Impacts you should plan for in your preps.  As we've stated before, in our view, Emergency Preparedness needs to focus more on limiting negative impacts to disasters than on preparing for specific events (earthquake, hurricane, etc.).  We discussed that philosophy and those Twelve Impacts in an earlier post.  You can see all of the items in the series to this point by clicking the 12 Impacts label category.

At this mid-point, we're going to take a little bit of a detour, but a very closely related one.  With any kind of sudden emergency, you will have two immediate actions:  Evacuate or Shelter In Place.  These are handled by the use of very simple checklists - one for each location you might find yourself during an emergency:  Home, Work or One The Road.

Today, I'll cover Shelter In Place (SIP).

If an emergency occurs, you may need to independently make the decision to evacuate or SIP, or the local authorities may issue orders one way or the other.  Regardless, you're going to be under stress.  Having your actions pre-defined by the use of checklists can help ensure nothing, "falls between the cracks" - important actions are not missed and needed materials are not forgotten.

Generally speaking, a SIP emergency can have three broad causes - some sort of a toxin is in the air (a poisonous gas or chemical release, smoke from large fires),  some sort of safety emergency has happened (civil unrest, fugitive searches) or a sudden weather-related event is occurring (tornado, etc.).

For instance, this past weekend, we had a SIP issued while authorities searched for the people responsible for a shooting near our home.  Since I heard the gunfire (all 20+ shots), our SIP plan kicked into place before we received the official notice.

What SIPs have in common is that they are generally short in duration - usually measured in hours, not weeks or months.  We recommend, though, that you assume it will last a couple of days, and prepare accordingly.

The SIP at Home Checklist:

All Emergencies:
  1. Move to your "safe room".  This is a room or safe area near the center of your home, on the lowest level possible.  It must have the ability to receive radio waves so you can get news reports and notification of the SIP status.  Ideally, it will have two ways in and out - preferably no windows.  You may need to evacuate and one exit may become impassible.
  2. Grab your SIP bucket (more on this later)
  3. Grab your Specialty Medical kit (more on this later)
  4. Grab your Bug Out Bag, (you may be required to evacuate at some point)
  5. Grab 5 gallons of water (assumes a family of 4)
Toxic Air Emergency
  1. Turn off air conditioning or central forced-air heater.
  2. Seal doors, windows, electrical outlets and air ducts of safe room with sheets of plastic and duct tape.
  3. Turn on radio to news station
Safety Emergency
  1. Lock all doors and windows. Close all window blinds and curtains.
  2. If a CIVIL DISTURBANCE such as riot, turn off all lights in your home to make it appear empty - and less likely to be attacked.
  3. If a FUGITIVE SEARCH, such as the police pursuing a wanted criminal, turn on all internal and external lights to make it appear occupied.  They are most times looking to hide, not move towards light.
  4. Arm all external home perimeter alarms (be sure NOT to set any interior motion detectors if you are not going to stay in your safe room).
  5. Load and otherwise make-ready all defensive weapons.
Weather Related
  1. Board up windows - if present - in Safe Room.  All materials - plywood, fasteners, tools, etc. - should be pre-positioned in the safe room.

Note 1:  Of course, if at all possible, have all of these supplies pre-positioned in your safe room.

Note 2:  The lights on/off issue is a contentious one, that you must decide for yourself.  During a fugitive search, would having the lights on make the criminal less likely to go towards your home, as they are trying to hide in the shadows?  Or will it draw them towards your home, in hopes of taking hostages?

Note 3:  There is also some contention regarding entering your safe room during a riot.  Some contend that your home may be ransacked or burned to the ground around you.  These are both certainly possible.

Historically, riots have occurred in the commercial districts of cities.  Think about the 1992 LA riots or the more recent riots in Oakland surrounding the BART police officer shooting a passenger.  Businesses were destroyed, not homes.  Residential neighborhoods are generally along the route to the riot, and don't take the damage that commercial areas take.

Both items - lighting and your location in your home during a riot - are personal decisions YOU must make.  What we're pushing for is that you consider the options and make your plans NOW, not during the stressful  emergency.

Note 4:  The average person inhales and exhales 14 times a minute.  The average volume per breath is 0.5 liters.  A 12x12 room with 8 foot ceilings has 32,621 cubic liters of air (12 x 12 x 8 x 28.317).  This is theoretically enough air for 4 people for 19 hours.  In practice, of course, this is not true, as the exhaled air is primarily CO2, which would begin displacing the air in the room, and eventually kill the inhabitants.

My personal rule-of-thumb would be to not remain in the room for more than 4 or 5 hours without an air exchange.  You need to make your own calculations and "trip-wires" for when you would evacuate the room.

Addendum - Note 5:  Obviously, if you have sealed your safe room against outside air, DO NOT light any flames for cooking, warmth or relaxation (cigarettes or pipes).  Aside from the fire danger, you will rapidly consume the available air, while simultaneiously filling the room with whatever exhaust is coming from the combustion.

SIP Bucket Contents

What Why
1 - 6 gallon lidded bucket To hold all SIP supplies and to act as your emergency toilet
5- Emergency "space" blankets 4 are for use as blankets for warmth, and one is to be hung in a corner to provide privacy for the make-shift toilet
1- bag pine bedding shavings For the toilet between uses
4- 3600 calorie survival bars To be eaten if hungry
4- packs of moistened baby wipes Toilet use and general hygiene
2-100 ft rolls of duct tape For securing plastic sheeting and privacy blanket
2- BLACK plastic sheets To secure around doors, windows and air ducts of safe room.  Black to keep light from "leaking" outside
1- Dynamo powered radio To keep abreast of developments.  Dynamo powered so you don't need to rely on batteries
1- Dynamo or shakable flashlight For light.  Dynamo or shakable powered so you don't need to rely on batteries
1- Standard first aid kit First aid
1- Pair of scissors To cut duct tape and black sheets for air ducts
3- 33 gallon trash bags Besides holding trash, too many uses to list
Playing cards, toys, games Entertainment during SIP - especially important if you have children
Self-defense weapon Including ammunition if it is a firearm.  Ensure safe storage guidelines are followed, especially if children are present in your home

Other optional items:
  1. If you live very near a chemical plant, power plant, industrial/manufacturing facility or a rail line, consider adding gas masks to your kit.
  2. If women/girls of reproductive age are in your group, include feminine hygiene items in your kit.
  3. If you have babies in your group, add formula, bottles and disposable diapers to your kit.
Specialty Medical Kits

As with any preparedness issue, your list must be customized to your lifestyle.  You or your family members may have special medical needs - diabetes supplies, colostomy bags, anxiety medications, wheel chairs, asthma inhalers - be sure to include them in your kits.

For diabetics, your All Emergency portion of the list might include grabbing an ice chest, filling it with ice, and grabbing your insulin supplies.

If you have home dialysis equipment, consider housing it in your safe room and doing your treatments there.

Accept The Challenge

Take this list and customize it for your own circumstances.  Do this now, while you are able to think and act clearly.  Be sure all of your family members know where the list is located, and where the various buckets and kits are located.

Also take the time to develop similar lists for Work and One The Road.  You never know where you'll be when an emergency occurs.

For work, your SIP kit and plans may be very rudimentary.  If your employer does not have a plan, YOU should consider what you would do in an emergency situation.  Is there a safe, secure area you could move to?  A restroom, supply closet or somewhere similar?  Don't allow yourself to become a victim simply because your employer has not developed a plan.

While On The Road, incorporate as much equipment as you can into your Get Home Bag.  Many of the items are dual purpose.

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Copyright 2009 Bison Risk Management Associates. All rights reserved. You are encouraged to repost this information so long as it is credited to Bison Risk Management Associates.


Anonymous said...

Seems like a reasonable plan to me. I don't intend to leave here so I don't worry much about what would happen if, say, a forest fire ran me out. Probably a mistake but I get overload.

Chief Instructor said...

I know you've got significant resources for staying put on your place. You're the ultimate SIP practitioner!