The government has been telling us to stock plastic sheeting and duct tape and be prepared seal a safe room since 9/11. Maybe they recommended it before and I was oblivious, but it really entered the public's consciousness after the terrorist attacks of 2001.
Yes, I've known I should do this.
No, I didn't take any steps to do it until this month.
Technically, there are two kinds of sheltering-in-place. The first is the one those of us in Tornado Alley are familiar with. If severe weather approaches, you grab your kids and hunker down in the basement or other safe area to avoid being blown into Oz. I've never looked good in blue gingham, so I've got this maneuver mastered.
The sheltering-in-place I am going to address today is the second variety and it is different from the first in some very important ways. If there is a chemical, biological, or terrorist attack, you may need to stay indoors and seal a room to keep your family safe.
In contrast to a severe weather situation, you do NOT want to shelter-in-place in the basement for a chemical or biological attack. Some chemical agents are actually heavier than air and can sink below ground level. You should select a room on the highest level of your house. Ideally that room would be interior and windowless and yet spacious (approx. 10 square feet per person) and with a source of water. I don't know about you, but that doesn't describe any room in my house!
I selected our master bathroom. It does have a window and door, but I should be able to seal them up quickly. Obviously it also has a water supply. If I had a lot of notice I could also seal up the adjoining master bedroom. We would be considerably more comfortable and have access to a TV to keep abreast of the news. I'm not counting on having a lot of warning, so we're probably going to be stuck in the bathroom. Thankfully, I store our BOBs in the bathroom closet so we'll have an emergency radio and other supplies.
The following diagram from ready.gov illustrates how you're supposed to seal up your room.
You should pre-cut all of your pieces of sheeting ahead of time. The last thing you want to do is be fooling around with that stuff when time is of the essence. Store the pre-cut sheeting with a roll of duct tape and a pair of scissors in the room you'll be sheltering in.
Don't forget to make sure the sheeting you buy is at least 2 mils thick. I bought a 250 meter roll of 3.5 mil plastic for $7.27. The duct tape was a little under $4. Pretty cheap preps that have a multitude of other uses. The leftover plastic sheeting could be used to make an evaporation still, a tarp, or sleeves to wear when you butcher rotting pig carcasses to create biodiesel. You know, vital survival activities in a SHTF scenario.
This kind of shelter-in-place is designed to last for a few hours, not days. You can't seal yourself in for very long or you'll suffocate! I've read that if the room you're sheltering in has at least 10 square feet per person, you will have enough oxygen for at least 5 hours. My bathroom is only 50 sq ft and I have six people in my family, so I guess we'll have to all breathe shallowly. I have read that most chemical agents should dissipate by 2 hours, though, so we should be fine. I hope.
Just to muddy the waters further, if there is a nuclear attack, you should shelter in place in the lowest level of your house or an interior room. Having earth and concrete surrounding you will help protect your family from radiation. You should prepare your basement shelter in much the same way as your upper level shelter. Read this for more information http://www.bt.cdc.gov/radiation/shelter.asp
Don't forget that before you seal yourself in for a chemical, biological or nuclear attack, you need to turn off your heat or A/C!
I live in a rural area and I'm pretty sure the farmer next door isn't a secret agent for Al Qaeda, but even our family could potentially need to shelter in place. No matter who you are or where you live, take the time to buy some plastic sheeting and duct tape and get ready. Don't be a slacker like me!
There are two websites I recommend for further reading:
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