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Sheltering in place saves lives

by Randy Ray
6th Civil Engineer Squadron readiness flight

Editor's note: Sometime next week, the 6th Air Mobility Wing will conduct a Major Accident Response Exercise. The exercise will focus on Mass Casualties, Weapons of Mass Destruction and Shelter-in-Place procedures. Due to the sensitive nature of our world situation and the tensions that accompany these times, the 6th AMW Exercise and Evaluations wanted to give the base populace forewarning. The exercise will include minor simulated explosions, a disruption in traffic flow and an increased movement of emergency vehicles. All of these procedures are crucial and necessary for the realistic training of our first responders. Your patience and understanding during this vital training exercise will be greatly appreciated. For more information, contact Maj. Dave Cresswell, Chief of XPI, at 828-1353. The following article explains the shelter-in-place procedures.

Major accidents involving hazardous materials or terrorist use of a weapon of mass destruction may cause emergency responders to direct the implementation of sheltering-in-place. These procedures are used to provide short-term protection when evacuation is too dangerous or not possible. Regardless why, accomplish shelter-in place by doing the following:

Close and lock all doors and windows to the outside. Building custodians should confirm all ventilation systems to 100 percent recirculation so no outside air is drawn into the structure. If this is impossible, turn the system off.

Turn off all heating systems and air conditioners and switch the inlets to the "closed" position. Seal any gaps around window type air conditioners with tape and plastic sheeting, wax paper or aluminum wrap/foil. Turn off exhaust fans in kitchens, bathrooms and other spaces.

Close all fireplace dampers.

Close as many internal doors as possible in your building or home.

Select a room in the building where occupants will be the most comfortable and which is easy to seal off. This room, if possible, should have access to water, toilet facilities, and adequate room for people to sit or lie down. The size of the room should be based on the period of time when there are the most people in the building. Ensure you have a TV, radio and a telephone in the room so you can receive further information as it becomes available.

Use tape and plastic sheeting (plastic food wrap will work) or aluminum foil to cover and seal exhaust fan grills, range and dryer vents and other openings to the outside of your shelter room. Plastic drop cloths can be purchased at the Self Help Store and duct tape is available at area hardware stores.

If the gas or vapor hazard is soluble or even partially soluble in water, hold a wet cloth or handkerchief over your nose and mouth if the gases start to bother you. If the gases are still bothering you and a bathroom with a shower is available, go in the bathroom, close the door, and turn on the shower in a strong spray to "wash" the air. Seal any opening in the bathroom as best you can. Don't worry about running out of air to breathe. That is highly unlikely in normal homes and buildings.

If an explosion is possible outdoors, close all drapes, curtains and shades over windows and stay away from external windows to prevent potential injury from flying glass.

Minimize the use of elevators in buildings. These tend to "pump" outdoor air in and out of a building as they travel up and down.

Tune into the Commander's Access Channel on television (Channel 19 on base), or a local radio or TV station for updates and further information.

Although shelter-in-place is simple to do, these procedures work better if they are planned. They can be used at work or at home.

If you have any questions on shelter-in-place, contact your building custodian, unit disaster preparedness representative or the 6th CES readiness flight at 828-4321.





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