Are you prepared to take shelter during an emergency?

Shelter for yourself and your family during a disaster is the topic for March 2011 on website

Knowledge and preparation for a local disaster could be crucial. Because everyone is vulnerable to hazards such as tornados or disasters like a chemical or hazardous materials spill, individuals, families and businesses should be disaster resilient. The Michigan based emergency preparedness website has designated March as shelter month.

Each month, highlights a different phase of emergency preparedness. By completing one of the simple monthly tasks, participants are one step closer to better preparedness for any emergency. Preparedness does not have to be hard or expensive. The monthly task in March 2011 is to grasp how to respond when given instructions to evacuate or to take shelter. Ideas for March include:

  • Identifying the best tornado shelter at home and in the workplace;
  • Talking to your child’s school regarding their sheltering procedures;
  • Assembling a “go-bag” in case you are asked to evacuate the home;
  • Having a leash or pet carrier to evacuate or contain your pet during an emergency.

In some emergencies you may be asked to “shelter in place”. That means making the place where you are, a safe place to stay until the emergency has concluded. We Midwesterners are used to sheltering in place during winter storms, but it also be necessary during a chemical or hazardous-materials release. The shelter-in-place strategy is called for when it’s too dangerous for you to leave your home or workplace. Notification for this type of alert may be given door-to-door by first responders or even by loud speakers from police or fire vehicles.

The first thing to consider during a hazardous materials release is gathering information. If responders are not in your immediate area, turn on the television or radio to determine if your area is affected and what to do. If you are told to shelter in place you should close all doors and windows, shut off fans and air conditioners. Shelter in place may also be used during an infectious disease outbreak as an isolation or quarantine measure to slow the spread of the disease. Contact your local health department to learn more about disease response plans in your community

In other situations, an evacuation shelter may be opened nearby. If you are evacuated to a shelter, take a go-bag containing important items such as:

  • a list of prescription medicine
  • personal items like toothbrushes and soap
  • insurance information
  • pet supplies
  • diapers
  • baby formula
  • a change of clothes for every family member

A more complete list of items for your go-bag can be found at the website.

In an emergency or disaster situation securing shelter is one of the most important things you can do for yourself and your family. Planning for disasters before they occur increases the margin of safety for everyone. For more information on Sheltering, assembling your go-bag or the “1 thing” you can do each month, visit

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