When there is a threat of hazardous materials somehow getting into a property, you may find yourself dealing with a shelter in place scenario. Shelter in place orders typically mean that you need to take shelter someplace where there is very little ventilation and few windows. This is to minimize the risk of anyone being hurt by airborne contaminants. A shelter in place order may happen as the result of a bomb threat, chemical or other environmental leaks that can be hazardous to a community on the whole.
When this happens in an emergency situation, anyone who owns properties has to comply. Doing so only means allowing people to take refuge on that property. There are certain legal obligations that all property owners should be aware of and it’s also a good idea to have a section of your rental handbook that addresses such a situation.
You’ll hear about a shelter in place order via the internet, television, or on the radio. What this means for you as a property owner is that visitors to your property, or anyone in the vicinity will need to take shelter. What you’ll need to do is to make sure that you have a good supply of first aid supplies, battery operated radios, bottled water, and other essentials in the area you plan to use as the shelter.
That room or rooms will need to be a confined space that doesn’t have exterior windows, on the lowest floor you can. If you can, find a room or rooms that has hardwired telephones, as you may not be able to depend on internet and cell reception during such an emergency. Make sure that all of the windows and doors where you shelter are closed and locked. You can also seal the cracks around these with packing tape, duct tape, or even just garbage bags. Wet towels are also beneficial for keeping contaminants out. Make sure that all heating and cooling systems, fans, and other devices that circulate air have been shut down.
These orders usually do not last very long and often, they are just a precautionary measure- but when they happen, they should be treated as an actual emergency and taken seriously. Once you have everyone taken care of, it’s a good time to let people contact those they need to, to let them know that they are safe. While you do that, monitor the situation as best you can for updates, and authorities will either give the all clear or deliver evacuation orders. Always be sure those orders come from someone in a place of authority to do so and never rely on something you heard.
Shelter in place orders are a fairly rare occurrence, but they are one of those things that if you own a property, you need to know about and have a fairly well established plan for that everyone’s aware of.