Heartland 101 January 2016: Shelter in Place Safety

Just 31% of respondents in Life in the Heartland’s recent survey are aware of the safety action to take should a hazardous material be released into the atmosphere. If asked to Shelter in Place, would you know what to do?


A number of products are used in local industrial processes, and are transported by road, rail and pipelines in and through our community every day. “We need to be prepared for all types of emergencies, and hazardous material release is one of them,” says Brenda Gheran, Executive Director with Northeast Region Community Awareness Emergency Response (NRCAER). “Shelter in Place and staying ‘in’ is equally important as getting out of a burning building.”

Shelter-In-Place means going and remaining safely indoors during the first hours of a release. The steps are:

  1. Remain or go inside
  2. Tune in to local radio/TV/social media
  3. Close and lock all windows and doors
  4. Turn down furnace and shut off fans/vents that draw outdoor air inside
  5. Stay tuned to local radio/TV/social media for updates from response authorities

When you Shelter-In-Place, air exchanges are reduced into and out of a building, providing a ‘bubble’ of good air. This prevents exposure to peak chemical concentrations, until they are dispersed by wind and weather conditions, the hazard has passed, or other appropriate emergency actions can be taken.

You may be asked to Shelter-In-Place when:

  • there isn’t enough time or warning to safely evacuate
  • a release is expected to pass over the area quickly
  • the source and nature of the release has not yet been determined
  • a safe evacuation route has yet to be verified
  • evacuation assistance is needed

Family members should not be brought home from work or school, which Gheran says is difficult for parents especially. Schools have Shelter-In-Place plans and it’s safest for everyone to stay put until there is no longer a danger. “Releases are not always visible, so even if you think it looks ok, it may not be. It’s best to wait until local authorities give the all clear.”

To get up to date information, register for municipal alerting systems, as well as the Alberta Emergency Alert. Links can be found at www.nrcaer.com/notification.

For more information about Shelter in Place, check out www.nrcaer.com/community-safety/

Stay up to date on industrial activity in the Heartland by visiting lifeintheheartland.com or following us on Facebook and Twitter.