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What Shelter-in-Place Means:
Depending on your circumstances and the type of emergency, the first important decision is whether you stay put or get away. You should understand and plan for both possibilities. Use common sense and available information to determine if there is an immediate danger. In any emergency, local authorities may or may not immediately be able to provide information on what is happening and what you should do. Use available information to assess the situation. VHCC has a PA system in place to use in the event of an emergency. The college will also utilize the campus email to alert campus occupants too. If you see large amounts of debris in the air, or if local authorities say the air is badly contaminated, you may want to "shelter-in-place." However, you should watch TV, listen to the radio, listen to the PA system, or check the Internet often for information or official instructions as it becomes available. If you are specifically told to evacuate or seek medical treatment, do so immediately. If you are instructed to shelter-in-place, do so quickly, orderly, and safely. Remember, do not panic. You do not want to create an injury that would necessitate having to move an injured person outside. Shelter-in-place means selecting a small, interior room, with no or few windows, and taking refuge there. It does not mean sealing off the entire building you are in, just the rooms. The following are the proper steps to take when you decide that your emergency would have you shelter-in-place:

  • Close the college. Activate the school’s emergency plan. Follow reverse evacuation procedures using the PA system to alert students, faculty, and staff that they should immediately go indoors.
  • If there are 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.
  • Provide for answering telephone inquiries from concerned parents by having at least one telephone with the school’s listed telephone number available in the room selected to provide shelter for the college receptionist, or person designated to answer these calls. This room should also be sealed. There should be a way to communicate among all rooms where people are sheltering-in-place in the school.
  • Provide administrators and pertinent staff the connection code to make announcements over the college public address system from the room where they take shelter.
  • If students have cell phones, allow them to use them to call a parent or guardian to let them know that they have been asked to remain in place until further notice, and that they are safe.
  • If the college has voice mail or an automated attendant, change the recording to indicate that the college is closed, students and staff are remaining in the building until authorities advise that it is safe to leave.
  • Provide directions to close and lock all windows, exterior doors, and any other openings to the outside.
  • If you are told there is danger of explosion, direct that window shades, blinds, or curtains be closed.
  • 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 if available.
  • 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. Classrooms may be used if there are no windows or the windows are sealed and can not be opened. Duct tape can be used to seal windows and doors. Large storage closets, utility rooms, and meeting rooms without exterior windows will also work well.
  • It is ideal to have a hard-wired telephone in the classroom or office 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.
    • Bring everyone into the room. Shut and lock the door if possible.
  • Use duct tape and plastic sheeting (heavier than food wrap) to seal all cracks around the door(s) and any vents into the room.
  • Select a person to be in charge of individual rooms. These may be either faculty or staff members.
  • Write down the names of everyone in the room, and call a college designated emergency contact to report who is in each room and list the building name and room number. If the room doesn’t have a phone, designate one cell phone to be used to communicate with college administration.
  • Listen for an official announcement from college administrators via the public address system, and stay where you are 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.

Why you may be asked to shelter in place:
Chemical, biological, or radiological contaminants may be released accidentally or intentionally into the environment. VHCC is adjacent to Interstate 81 which is a major artery for the transportation of hazardous materials. Should this occur, information will be provided by local authorities on television and radio stations and through college channels on how to protect students, faculty, and staff. Because information will most likely be provided on television and radio, it is important to keep a TV or radio on, even during the workday. The important thing is for you to follow instructions of local authorities and know what to do if they advise you to shelter-in-place. VHCC Campus Police and maintenance staff keep up-to-date Emergency Response Guidebooks for such emergencies.

A violent or armed assailant, civil disturbances, and workplace violence, may happen on campus. If this happens, turn the lights off and secure the door (from the inside if possible), be quiet, and gather in the back of the room away from the entrance. Stay there until the police alert you that the threat is over.

Severe weather/tornadoes can occur in our region often without sufficient warning. Sheltering-in-place should be immediately ordered and occupants should proceed to the predetermined sheltering location for specific buildings. When instructions are given to move occupants to a safe area, the move should be done safely and quickly. Necessary assistance will be made available for the handicapped. The safest areas are interior hallways on the first or basement floors away from windows. North and east walls are preferable to south and west walls. Sit in fetal position with face and head protected. These areas are:

ADM Building: Hallway near the Vice Presidents’ offices.
MEC Building: Hallway near the Machine Shop.
OTC Building: First floor hallway.
ISC Building: East hallway and east side classrooms.
NEB Building: Hallways or 903/905
LRC Building: Learning Lab area and that section of the Library near the Learning Lab.

When the crisis is over

When you hear the "all clear" message over the emergency broadcast system, you should:

  • Open doors and windows
  • Turn on your heating/cooling system to ventilate the house.
  • Take a head count or roll call for employees and students
  • Go outside

Remember that instructions to shelter-in-place are usually provided for durations of a few hours, not days or weeks. There is little danger that the room in which you are taking shelter will run out of oxygen and you will suffocate. At all times, try to remain calm and do not panic.

Last updated: 3/6/2009 12:59:03 PM