Shelter-in-Place Option

A collection of events has prompted Newtown Square Fire Chief Doug Everlof to share some emergency suggestions were prompted by recent events.  He began by saying, “Many followers of both recent television and radio news may have been introduced to a form of emergency response that is growing in effectiveness and acceptance. “

The event Chief Everlof was citing was a collection of Monday, November 28, mid-morning events that occurred on the sprawling Columbus, Ohio campus of The Ohio State University. A forced vehicle accident resulting in pedestrian injuries followed eight stabbings by what was described as a “butcher knife,” became responsible for a growing response to community emergencies—Sheltering-In-Place.

Ohio State University students returned to the Columbus campus following a Thanksgiving exodus and those students who experienced the emotions of the Saturday, November 26 double-overtime, 30-27 victory over arch rival University of Michigan returned to the campus with an academic mission. With the upcoming, mid-December final exams for the school’s Autumn Semester, OSU students were well focused until a collection of student injuries at a 9:52 a.m. campus incident.

The sound of gunshots on campus spawned University official to declare a Shelter-In-Place statement.   As has become favored, a well-advised practice for academic installations, this safety-practice incorporates seeking safety within the nearby, normally occupied structure.   This concept contrasts with the relocation to a possible remote, large evacuation site.

Shelter-In Place—often also known as a “lockdown”—is being viewed as an increasing effective way to address emergencies.  Joining in a Newtown Square Fire Company endorsement of the wisdom as this being a possible emergency response, are county, state, and federal organizations. Having the means to keep informed becomes a key ingredient in decision-making by person who may need instructions.  The use of cell phone communications—both voice and text, interior building communications, and the local electronic media all become important ingredients in the selection of safety choices.

Newtown Square’s fire chief explained, “National evaluation states there are instances where it can be wise to seek safety within the building you already occupy, rather than to evacuate the area or seek a community emergency shelter.”

Included in a list of risks are those that includes chemical, biological, or radiological contaminants.  This class of risks can be an accidental or an intentional release. If this class of dangers is known, people at risk should select a small, interior room, with no or few windows, and taking refuge there.

Sheltering in Place involves closing all household doors, windows and vents and taking immediate shelter in a readily accessible location that puts as much physical protection and indoor air and/or radiation shielding-mass between individuals and the outside hazardous.  This may include a basement or centrally located medium to small room.

If the emergency involves a school, a secured classroom is often a wise choice.  As was shown in recent television news, the fortress collection of chairs and tables barricading the room’s door became what appeared to be a sturdy defense.

In another type of emergency—one involving air contamination or radiation dangers—wise safety steps may include making the fortress as airtight as possible by shutting off all ventilation/HVAC systems. Additional protection can be achieved by a creative sealing the shelter's doors and windows from all outside air contaminants with damp towels, or if available, plastic sheeting and adhesive tape.

National analysis has shown Shelter-In-Place effectiveness has been evaluated by experts and it has been shown that proper sealing can make a substantial difference to a normal home shelter.  It has been found to be at least twice as effective against a host of airborne substances when compared against simply staying inside and not implementing some form protection the military, “Shelter-in-Place" is comparable to "buttoning up" and has proved life-saving in certain nuclear fallout instances.

A key ingredient that has general backing is the concept to Run from the Danger, Hide from the source of the risk, and if confronted and if there is alternative—Fight for your life and those of others

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