Shelter in Place - S-I-P: Do You Know How?

S-I-P is a term not commonly heard related to Emergency Response in the workplace. Corporate America has fine-tuned the art of Emergency Evacuation establishing assembly areas, accountability check lists, and organizational structures to manage the chaos but very few practice or have even developed procedures for Shelter-In-Place.

Many of the companies where I conduct training are within a ¼ mile of a major highway.  Hazardous Materials are transported daily on these highways as well as railroad tracks which are also near many corporate buildings.  Typically, when an emergency evacuation is necessary, most buildings have sirens and strobe lights to indicate to employees an evacuation of the building is needed.  However, what notification systems are in place for your site to notify your employees of a shelter-in-place activation?  Is there an intercom system? Do you have Send Word Now software to notify employees via phone, text or email?  Within your structure, where will you shelter-in-place to ensure you are away from doors and windows?

These are just a few of the questions I ask my clients when reviewing Emergency Response Plans and Procedures.  For 2015 I will be working closely with my companies to ensure they have solid procedures in place if a Shelter-In-Place Activation is needed.

Here are just a few suggestions from the Department of Homeland Security:

At Work:

  • Bring everyone into the room(s). Shut and lock the door(s).
  • If there are customers, clients, or visitors in the building, provide for their safety by asking them to stay – not leave. When authorities provide directions to shelter-in-place, they want everyone to take those steps now, where they are, and not drive or walk outdoors.
  • Unless there is an imminent threat, ask employees, customers, clients, and visitors to call their emergency contact to let them know where they are and that they are safe.
  • Turn on call-forwarding or alternative telephone answering systems or services. If the business has voice mail or an automated attendant, change the recording to indicate that the business is closed, and that staff and visitors are remaining in the building until authorities advise it is safe to leave.
  • Close and lock all windows, exterior doors, and any other openings to the outside.
  • If you are told there is danger of explosion, close the window shades, blinds, or curtains.
  • Have employees familiar with your building’s mechanical systems turn off all fans, heating and air conditioning systems. Some systems automatically provide for exchange of inside air with outside air – these systems, in particular, need to be turned off, sealed, or disabled.
  • Gather essential disaster supplies, such as nonperishable food, bottled water, battery-powered radios, first aid supplies, flashlights, batteries, duct tape, plastic sheeting, and plastic garbage bags.
  • Select interior room(s) above the ground floor, with the fewest windows or vents. The room(s) should have adequate space for everyone to be able to sit in. Avoid overcrowding by selecting several rooms if necessary. Large storage closets, utility rooms, pantries, copy and conference rooms without exterior windows will work well. Avoid selecting a room with mechanical equipment like ventilation blowers or pipes, because this equipment may not be able to be sealed from the outdoors.
  • It is ideal to have a hard-wired telephone in the room(s) you select. Call emergency contacts and have the phone available if you need to report a life-threatening condition. Cellular telephone equipment may be overwhelmed or damaged during an emergency.
  • Use duct tape and plastic sheeting (heavier than food wrap) to seal all cracks around the door(s) and any vents into the room.
  • Write down the names of everyone in the room 

S-I-P is a term not commonly heard related to Emergency Response in the workplace. Corporate America has fine-tuned the art of Emergency Evacuation establishing assembly areas, accountability check lists, and organizational structures to manage the chaos but very few practice or have even developed procedures for Shelter-In-Place.

Many of the companies where I conduct training are within a ¼ mile of a major highway.  Hazardous Materials are transported daily on these highways as well as railroad tracks which are also near many corporate buildings. Typically, when an emergency evacuation is necessary, most buildings have sirens and strobe lights to indicate to employees an evacuation of the building is needed.  However, what notification systems are in place for your site to notify your employees of a shelter-in-place activation? Is there an intercom system? Do you have Send Word Now software to notify employees via phone, text or email?  Within your structure, where will you shelter-in-place to ensure you are away from doors and windows?

These are just a few of the questions I ask my clients when reviewing Emergency Response Plans and Procedures. For 2015 I will be working closely with my companies to ensure they have solid procedures in place if a Shelter-In-Place Activation is needed.

Here are just a few suggestions from the Department of Homeland Security:

At Work:

Keep listening to the radio or television until you are told all is safe or you are told to evacuate. Local officials may call for evacuation in specific areas at greatest risk in your community.

Close the business and call your business’ designated emergency contact to report who is in the room with you, and their affiliation with your business (employee, visitor, client, customer.)