January 19th, 2005


Shelter In Place

Every non-residential building in the city is required by law to have a designated area where, in case of a chemical catastrophe, the occupants of the building are to relocate, seal the entrances and wait for further instruction. This initiative is called ‘Shelter in Place’ and it is a program which has been in development since the 1950s. You may already be familiar with this program, but now that you have a level of clearance where you may need to initiate our emergency system, I feel it is appropriate to inform you of why we call a ‘Shelter in Place’ emergency.

As you know, we require buildings to designate a ‘Safe Room’ and to move building occupants to that room in case of a ‘Shelter in Place’ emergency. We instruct that the room’s ventilation be cut off and all entrances sealed with plastic, tape, or wet towels. Though sealing the doors and windows could be helpful in case of a minor chemical leak, it will do nothing in the event of a major disaster or an ongoing emergency. Co2 levels in any confined space would suffocate the occupants in a matter of days and we anticipate that chemicals that would cause such an environmental emergency would be able to penetrate the minor levels of protection a ‘Safe Room’ could provide.

We primary expect to use the ‘Shelter in Place’ emergency system in case of a disaster in which we do not have time to evacuate residents. Confining residents to one, sealed room makes cleanup after the disaster simpler, and crews are quickly able to clean and cover the problem.

Non-residential buildings are required to notify the police of the location of their ‘Safe Room’, which is information we can relay to biohazard teams when it comes time to sterilize the area and quickly re-circulate the population. We have found this method works in keeping news of this nature from the press and creating a panic that could endanger the system.

If you have any questions about the “Shelter in Place” procedure, please notify your immediate superior.

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