Shelters In Your Home or Business


Taking shelter is critical in times of disaster. This may mean taking immediate shelter in a basement during a tornado warning, staying inside an enclosed structure while a chemical cloud passes, or staying at home during a severe storm for several days without electricity, water and other basic services.

In many emergencies the American Red Cross, assisted by community and other disaster relief groups, will work with local authorities to set up public shelters in schools, municipal buildings and churches. They often provide water, food, medicine and basic sanitary facilities. But you should plan to have your own supplies as well - especially water. See the Safety Checklist area for more details.

Shelter Living During an Emergency

  1. Stay in your shelter until local authorities tell you it is permissible or advisable to leave. The length of your stay can range from a few days to as long as two weeks.
  2. Smoking should be restricted to well-ventilated areas. Smoking creates a fire hazard and discomfort for non-smokers.
  3. Cooperate with shelter management and others staying in the shelter. Living with many people in a confined space can be difficult and unpleasant.
  4. Maintain a 24 hour communication and safety watch. Take turns listening for important radio information. Watch for fires.
  5. People may need to use improvised, emergency toilets if the water supply has been cut off. This kind of toilet consists of any water container with a snug-fitting cover.
    • Use a garbage container, pail or bucket. If the container is small, keep a large container (also with a cover) available for waste disposal. Line both containers with plastic bags.
    • After each use, pour or sprinkle a small amount of regular household disinfectant, such as chlorine bleach, into the container to reduce odors


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