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News | Aug. 9, 2021

Seek shelter, shelter-in-place and lockdown: knowing the difference can save lives

By DLA Installation Management Richmond’s Security and Emergency Services

During actual emergencies and in emergency y exercises, employees on Defense Supply Center Richmond, Virginia, may receive emergency messages and warnings through several modes of communication including computer pop up messages, and texts and phone calls, and even through speaker systems located both inside and outside of buildings across the installation.

If you received the notification “A tornado warning has been issued for Defense Supply Center Richmond and the surrounding areas, personnel in trailers evacuate in accordance with established procedures, all other employees seek shelter immediately,” would you know what you should do?

“Seek shelter”, “shelter-in-place” and “lockdown” are three terms often used when natural disasters or other emergencies take place to instruct individuals what to do to stay safe, but do you know the difference between them? Knowing the difference could save your life during an actual emergency.

Seek shelter
You should “seek shelter” when there is a severe weather event.  Shelter locations should be predesignated, and these locations should be shared with everyone in that area.  This way, when dangerous weather situations occur, everyone knows where to go until the storm passes.

“Seek shelter” possibilities include interior bathrooms and hallways, or under a sturdy object (preferably a desk).  Outdoors, lie flat in the nearest ditch, ravine, or culvert with hands shielding the head.  Do not seek shelter in a vehicle or trailer.

Remember to stay sheltered until “all clear” is announced.  Conducting regular tornado drills will help get everyone familiarized with what to do and where to go when an actual event happens in the area.

“Sheltering-in-place” is in response to a chemical, biological or radiological contamination that may have been released into the environment.

When instructed to “shelter-in-place,” swiftly move to a pre-selected room or rooms with few or no windows. Once inside, seal windows, doors and ventilation systems using tape, plastic, and weather stripping in an attempt to avoid a chemical disturbance.

Wet paper or wet cloth should be used to seal cracks in the building.

Increase protection by using whatever means are available to reduce the ventilation rate.  Examples include turning off the air conditioning systems, closing all windows and doors, and avoiding the use of elevators. These actions can all help decrease the risk of contamination.

If someone becomes contaminated, it is recommended that they seclude themselves from co-workers, remove their clothing and place it in a plastic bag, and shower, if possible.

When instructed to “lockdown,” it is in response to an active shooter event. During an active shooter emergency, you will be asked to lock/barricade yourself in a room with no windows, if possible.

If a room with no windows is not available in the building, try to take cover or stay out of view from any potential threat.

The idea of a “lockdown” is to remain properly secured and out of the active shooter’s line of vision until the area is secure.

When creating your response plan, terms like “seek shelter,” “lockdown,” and “shelter-in-place” should be defined, and their application explained for each type of emergency.  The emergency action plan should be practiced and communicated to build familiarity in case an actual emergency ever happens.

So, remember… when you hear “seek shelter,” there is a weather event in the area and you need to get into a protective area and out of the elements.  “Lockdown” means there’s an active shooter in the area and you need to get to a safe location that can be locked or barricaded.  When you hear “shelter-in-place,” some sort of dangerous agent has been released in the air and you need to seal yourself off from breathing the toxic fumes.

Practice makes perfect.  Exercise, communicate and test your plans.