Mississippi State Department of Health

Sheltering in Place


Certain types of emergencies, such as a chemical accident or natural disasters, make going outdoors dangerous. Instead, it's safer to stay indoors and shelter in place.

"Shelter in place" means to make a shelter out of the place you are in. It is a way for you to make the building as safe as possible to protect yourself until help arrives.

You should not try to shelter in a vehicle unless you have no other choice. Vehicles are not air-tight enough to give you adequate protection from chemicals.

Preparing to shelter in place

Choose a room in your house or apartment for your shelter. The best room to use for the shelter is a room with as few windows and doors as possible. A large room, preferably with a water supply, is desirable, something like a master bedroom that is connected to a bathroom.

For chemical events, this room should be as high in the structure as possible to avoid vapors (gases) that sink. Turn off the air conditioning system. Close all windows and doors.

For tornadoes and other severe weather, the shelter should be low in the home, located in an interior room or closet.

You might not be at home if the need to shelter in place ever arises, but if you are at home, the following items would be good to have on hand. (Ideally, all of these items would be stored in the shelter room to save time.)

When to shelter in place

What to do

Act quickly and follow the instructions of your local emergency coordinators. Every situation can be different, so local emergency coordinators might have special instructions for you to follow.

In general, do the following:

Sheltering in this way should keep you safer than if you are outdoors. Most likely, you will be in the shelter for no more than a few hours. Listen to the radio for an announcement indicating that it is safe to leave the shelter.

After you come out of the shelter, emergency coordinators may have additional instructions on how to make the rest of the building safe again.

This fact sheet is based on the Center's For Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC) best current information. It may be updated as new information becomes available.

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