Taking shelter is critical in times of disaster. You will shelter in place when conditions dictate you will be safer if you remain where you are when an emergency arises. In other situations, evacuation may be your only option.
Sheltering in Place
Sheltering in place means staying inside whatever building you are in at the time of an emergency. This can include your home, place of employment, school, or other buildings. If you are outside, this means going into an undamaged building nearby for safety.
During extended periods of sheltering, you must manage water and food supplies to ensure you have the required supplies and quantities for those with whom are you sheltering.
Review the New Jersey Office of Emergency Management for simple instructions on how to shelter in place for the following locations:
In some circumstances, local officials will decide the hazards are more serious and require mandatory evacuations. When community evacuations become necessary, local officials provide information to the public through the media. In addition, other warning methods, such as sirens, text alerts, emails, or telephone calls, are used. In other circumstances, evacuations are advised or households decide to evacuate to avoid situations they believe are potentially dangerous.
Sheltering outside the hazard area could include staying with friends or relatives, going to a hotel, or staying in a community shelter operated by agencies such as the Red Cross, local faith-based organizations, or local or county government.
The time you have to prepare to leave will depend on the hazard. If the event is a weather condition, such as a hurricane, you may have a day or two to get ready; however, many disasters allow no time for people to gather even the most basic necessities, which is why planning is essential.
Plan how you will assemble your family and supplies and anticipate where you will go for different situations. Choose destinations in different directions so you have options in an emergency and know the evacuation routes to get to those destinations.
There are two types of emergency shelters:
• General population shelters (or mass care shelters), which serve everyone in the community who does not require the level of medical care provided by a Federal Medical Station (FMS), which is a non-emergency medical center set up during a natural disaster to care for displaced people with special health needs that cannot be met in a shelter for the general population during an incident and/or a State/locally operated medical support shelter.
• Medical needs shelters, which support individuals who have medical issues requiring care beyond the capability of a general population shelter.
Most people can be accommodated at a general population shelter; however, some with certain medical conditions or health issues may need to be referred to a medical needs shelter. Public health staff and volunteers determine who needs to be referred to a medical needs shelter.
Although mass care shelters often provide water, food, medicine, and basic sanitary facilities, bring your disaster supplies kit so you have the supplies you require. Mass care sheltering can involve living with many people in a confined space, which can be difficult and unpleasant. To avoid conflicts, cooperate with shelter managers and those assisting them. Also, remember that alcoholic beverages and weapons are forbidden in emergency shelters, and smoking is restricted.
The Mercer County Division of Public Health has a Medical Needs Shelter Plan that is exercised to train our staff and volunteers and to make ongoing improvements to better serve our residents. Our most recent exercise, held in November 2016, was a collaboration between Mercer County Division of Public Health, Township of Ewing, and The College of New Jersey.
For more information on sheltering in place and evacuating, read review this information.