Shelter In Place

This document was produced in cooperation with the Emergency Management Division of the Washington State Military Department.

If a chemical agent attack happens, authorities will instruct people to either seek shelter where they are and seal the premises (shelter-in-place), or evacuate immediately.

If ordered to remain in your home, office or school, follow these directions to “shelter-in-place.”

  • Go inside.
  • Close all windows and doors.
  • Turn off ventilation systems (heating and air-conditioning and fireplace dampers).
  • Go into a room with the fewest doors and windows and seal the room.
  • Stay in the room until told by the authorities that it is safe to come out.

How to shelter-in-place

  • Dampen towels and place over the cracks under doors.
  • Cut plastic sheeting to fit over the windows and vents. Secure the plastic with duct tape.
  • Tape around the door.
  • Turn on the radio.
  • Don't air out or leave your sealed shelter until you are told to do so.


  • If ordered to evacuate, do so immediately, and carefully follow directions. Do not wander about; know where you are going and how to get there.
  • Avoiding chemical exposure should be your primary goal. Leaving your sheltered area to rescue or assist victims can be a deadly decision.
  • In a chemical emergency, there is very little an untrained volunteer can do to help victims. Stay in your sheltered area until authorities determine it is safe to come out.
  • If you were outside before taking shelter and think you may have been exposed to a chemical agent, there are several things you can do. If you are in a sealed shelter, take off at least your outer clothes, put them in a plastic bag and seal the bag. If water is available, wash or take a cool to warm (not hot) shower, using lots of soap and water. Do not put the soap in your eyes, just lots of water. If you leave the area, tell emergency responders or medical staff at your destination you may have been exposed. Tell the emergency responders about the sealed bag so that they can arrange for its safe removal after the emergency.
  • If you have symptoms of exposure, call 9-1-1 immediately and follow their instructions.

Other languages (All files are PDF.)

DOH Pub 821-020
Revised - October 2006
Reviewed annually