An emergency occurs.

Instinctively, the first reaction for many is to evacuate the building.

But, what if the danger is increased outdoors? Staying in place might be the best option for you and your employees. Here’s why.

As a business, ensuring your best assets — your employees — remain safe is critical. Knowing when and how to Shelter-in-Place can prevent employees from evacuating within the vicinity of something more dangerous.

Join us in this three-part series as we explain Sheltering-in-Place, Lockdown and the differences between the two.

Let’s start with the basics of Shelter-in-Place, the first in our series.

1. What is Shelter-In-Place?

Shelter-in-Place refers to the act of sheltering staff indoors or in a specific area of a building, for several hours, due to a hazardous event outdoors. Depending upon the nature of the emergency, Shelter-in-Place often requires sealing rooms to limit air exchange with the outside. Shelter-in-Place differs from Lockdown. Shelter-in-Place addresses environmental threats, while Lockdown refers to the safety measures taken to protect from violence. 

2. When to Shelter-In-Place

The need to Shelter-in-Place will be dependent on the situation. Examples of a hazard that could initiate a Shelter-in-Place order include: release of toxic or hazardous gases outside, blizzard, or heavy windstorm. Building a Shelter-In-Place plan will help your business identify the hazards that can affect your organization.

3. Design a Plan and Communicate

The plan should designate specific sheltering locations and materials to prepare ahead of time.  These could include a first aid kit, drinking water, and duct tape for sealing windows.  In addition, ensure adequate communications systems are in place.  Communicating and practicing your plan removes uncertainty among employees and allows emergency workers to rapidly locate personnel. As there may be several designated sheltering locations, ensure communication tools are set up between locations to enable confirmation that all staff are safe and also, to maintain situation awareness. Procedures for checking-in via cell phone, text, email, or other means should be established in advance and included in the plan.

Shelter-in-Place is meant to be a temporary condition — lasting until the emergency is resolved, it is deemed safe to evacuate, or a longer-term solution can be found.  First Responders and emergency officials determine the next steps for your employees to take.

After the event, debrief with staff. Reviewing what was successful and where there may be opportunities for enhancement will help you continue to evolve your company’s plan. 

Interested in learning more?

Stay tuned, we will be publishing the second article of this series on March 1: Lockdown.

In the meantime, feel free to check out some other emergency management articles on our Emergency Management Matters blog.