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Plan & Prepare

Protective Actions: Sheltering-In-Place at School

Before it is time to Shelter - in - Place:

Identify a safe room in your school.

  • Select interior room(s), above the ground floor if possible, 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 cannot be opened.
    • Gymnasiums without exterior windows, meeting rooms without exterior windows, utility rooms or large storage closets also work well.
    • It is ideal to have a hard-wired telephone in the room(s) you select. Cellular telephone equipment may be overwhelmed or damaged during an emergency.
  • A word about BASEMENTS:
    • You should AVOID the basement if the emergency is NOT a tornado! If the emergency is some other type of severe weather event, your basement may become flooded. If the emergency is a chemical release – especially a release of chlorine or other gases that are heavier than air – these chemicals may seep into your basement even if the windows are closed.
    • However, basements are an ideal place to shelter IF the emergency is a tornado. In that case, the immediate threat is wind that may be strong enough to severely damage rooms that are above ground level

Learn the details of your school’s Emergency Plan.

  • Your school should already have a robust plan, including directives to notify students’ families, and details on Evacuation or Sheltering-in-Place.
  • To learn how your school can enhance its plan, visit NJOEM’s “For Schools & Day Care” page.

When it is time to Shelter-in-Place:

  • Close the school. Activate the school’s Emergency Plan. Follow reverse evacuation procedures to bring students, faculty and staff indoors.
  • If there are visitors in the building, provide for their safety. Ask 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.
    • Have at least one telephone with the school’s listed telephone number available in a selected room, with a person designated to answer calls.
  • There should be a way to communicate among all rooms where people are sheltering in place at the school.
    • Ideally, provide a way to make announcements over the school-wide public address system from the room where the top school official takes shelter.
  • If children have cell phones, allow them to use the phones to call a parent or guardian to let them know they are safe, and that they have been asked to remain at the school until further notice.
  • If the school has voicemail or an automated attendant, change the recording to indicate the school is closed, and students and staff are remaining in the building until authorities advise it is safe to leave.
  • Provide directions to close and lock all windows, exterior doors and anyother 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 system turn off all fans, heating and air conditioning systems.
    • Some systems automatically provide for exchange of inside air with outside air – and 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 if possible, 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 cannot be opened.
    • Gymnasiums without exterior windows, meeting rooms without exterior windows, utility rooms or large storage closets also work well.
  • 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.
  • Bring everyone into the room(s). Shut and lock the doors.
  • Write down the names of everyone in the room, and call your schools’ designated emergency contact to report who is in the room with you.
  • Listen for an official announcement from school officials via the public address system, and stay where you are until you are told all is safe or you are told to Evacuate or take Health-Related Actions.
  • When possible, keep listening to the radio or television until you are told all is safe or you are told to Evacuate or take Health-Related Actions. Local officials may call for evacuation in specific areas at greatest risk in your community.
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New Jersey Office of Emergency Management
P. O. Box 7068
Trenton, NJ 08628

 

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