Emergency Supplies and Gear
Sheltering in Place during a Radiation Emergency
The terrorist events of 2001 made many people wonder about the possibility of a terrorist attack involving radioactive materials. People who live near but not in the immediate area of the attack may be asked to stay home and take shelter rather than try to evacuate. This action is called “sheltering in place.” Because many radioactive materials rapidly decay and dissipate, staying in your home for a short time may protect you from exposure to radiation. The walls of your home may block much of the harmful radiation. Taking a few simple precautions can help you reduce your exposure to radiation. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has prepared this fact sheet to help you protect yourself and your family and to help you prepare a safe and well-stocked shelter.
Preparing a Shelter in Your Home
The safest place in your home during an emergency involving radioactive materials is a centrally located room or basement. This area should have as few windows as possible. The further your shelter is from windows, the safer you will be.
Preparation is the key. Store emergency supplies in this area. An emergency could happen at any time, so it is best to stock supplies in advance and have everything that you need stored in the shelter.
Every 6 months, check the supplies in your shelter. Replace any expired medications, food, or batteries. Also, replace the water in your shelter every 6 months to keep it fresh.
Make sure that all family members know where the shelter is and what it is for. Caution them not to take any items from that area. If someone “borrows” items from your shelter, you may find that important items are missing when they are most needed.
If you have pets, prepare a place for them to relieve themselves in the shelter. Pets should not go outside during a radiation emergency because they may track radioactive materials from fallout into the shelter. Preparing a place for pets will keep the radioactive materials from getting inside the shelter.
Preparing Emergency Supplies
Stock up on supplies, just as you would in case of severe weather conditions or other emergencies. Following is a list of things to consider when preparing your emergency kit.
Tips before Entering a Shelter
If you are outside when the alert is given, try to remove clothing and shoes and place them in a plastic bag before entering the house. During severe weather, such as extreme cold, remove at least the outer layer of clothes before entering the home to avoid bringing radioactive material into your shelter. Leave clothing and shoes outside. Shower and wash your body with soap and water. Removing clothing can eliminate up to 90% of radioactive contamination. By taking this simple step, you will reduce the time that you are exposed and also your risk of injury from the radiation.
Before entering the shelter, turn off fans, air conditioners, and forced-air heating units that bring air in from the outside. Close and lock all windows and doors, and close fireplace dampers.
When you move to your shelter, use duct tape and plastic sheeting to seal any doors, windows, or vents for a short period of time in case a radiation plume is passing over (listen to your radio for instructions). Within a few hours, you should remove the plastic and duct tape and ventilate the room. Suffocation could occur if you keep the shelter tightly sealed for more than a few hours.
Keep your radio tuned to an emergency response network at all times for updates on the situation. The announcers will provide information about when you may leave your shelter and whether you need to take other emergency measures.