Shelter-in-Place / Evacuate

In the event a hazardous material incident or an emergency situation arises, emergency personnel will instruct the community to remain indoors (i.e., shelter-in-place) or leave the area (i.e., evacuate).

In the majority of hazardous material emergencies, it is best to shelter-in-place. As a precautionary action, an evacuation will allow residents to travel away from danger.

Each event will determine specific instructions, but the following information will serve as general guidelines.


A sudden emergency involving chemicals, or hazardous materials, may not allow time to evacuate safely. A sudden emergency will force emergency officials to ask you to take immediate action to protect yourselves and shelter-in-place, which means protecting yourself where you are and remaining in place until given further instructions or emergency officials give the all clear. If you are asked to shelter-in-place, do the following:

  • Remain indoors or in your vehicle until given official notice that it is safe to go outside.
  • Plan ahead! Residents should already have access to a battery-operated radio, a flashlight, and fresh batteries.
  • Remain calm.
  • Go inside if you are outdoors.
  • Do not call 911 unless you are reporting an immediate, life-threatening situation.
  • Be aware of your school or daycare services emergency plan.
  • Close all windows and doors. Tape cracks for extra protection.
  • Shut off all vents on cooling, heating, ventilating systems, chimney flues, and attic fans.
  • Cover cracks under doors with damp towels or masking tape.
  • If you have a fireplace, put out the fire and close the damper.
  • Move to an interior room or hallway with no openings to the outside.
  • Keep pets indoors.
  • Listen carefully to a portable radio or television for instructions from emergency officials.
  • If you are in a car, close windows and vents.
  • Do not drive through barricades or off-limit areas.
  • Do not come out unless told to do so by radio, TV, news, or emergency officials.


In an emergency situation, emergency officials may ask you to evacuate to protect yourself and your family. Evacuating means leaving the area that is affected by the potential hazard. Sometimes a chemical incident such as a transportation accident on the highway or railroad, could force people from their homes for health and safety reasons. If asked to evacuate, do the following:

  • Remain calm!
  • If told to evacuate, do so!
  • Do not use the phone except to dial 911 in a life-threatening situation.
  • Secure your home as you would for a three-day trip.
  • Close and lock windows and doors.
  • Turn off all fans, heating, and cooling units.
  • Have a pet emergency kit on hand, and bring your pet with you when you leave. (Pet emergency kits should include at least a two-week supply of pet food, medications, leashes, and collars, and any other supplies your pet may need. Make sure pets are identified with appropriate tags where applicable.)
  • Keep vehicle windows and vents closed while evacuating.
  • Do not go to your children's school. They will probably be evacuated by the time you arrive.
  • Follow instructions of emergency personnel along evacuation routes.
  • Stay tuned to Emergency Broadcast Stations.

Items to Bring

  • Appropriate clothing
  • Baby supplies
  • Personal care items
  • Prescription drugs
  • Sleeping bags or blankets

Leave contact information with responders directing evacuation, including your cell phone number, your intended destination, and the number of people leaving.

Residents who have special transportation needs should make arrangements with neighbors or inform their local emergency personnel as a means of planning.