Skip navigation


Person hiding under desk during earthquake drill

If hazardous materials have been released into the air, officials may order you to shelter-in-place. Incidents that may trigger such an order could include an explosion at a chemical plant, a railway accident that involved trains carrying hazardous substances, or a volcanic or nuclear explosion.
Being ordered to shelter-in-place is not the same as being ordered to go to a shelter in case of a storm. Instead, it means staying inside and taking refuge in a small interior room with no or few windows until you are alerted that it is safe to leave.
In most cases, a shelter-in-place order will be in effect for a few hours, not days or weeks.

Emergency personnel will provide you with instructions on what to do. 
For your safety, it is imperative that you stay indoors when a shelter-in-place order is given, especially if you see a cloud, vapour or smoke outdoors.

Shelter-In-Place at Home

If you at home when the shelter-in-place order is made, follow these steps to stay safe until the order is no longer in effect:

  • Close and lock all exterior doors, windows and openings. If you are told there is a danger of explosion, close the window shades, blinds or curtains.
  • Turn off all fans, heating and air conditioning systems. If this is not possible, set thermostats so all air conditioners, furnaces and hot water heaters will not come on. 
  • Close the fireplace damper.
  • Collect your emergency supplies, including duct tape and plastic sheeting or garbage bags, and make sure the radio is working.
  • Gather everyone in the household in an interior room that has enough space for everyone, a hard-wired telephone and with no or few windows. If possible, if should be above ground level (in the case of a chemical threat, an above-ground location is preferable because some chemicals are heavier than air and may seep into basements, even if windows are closed.)
  • Bring your pets with you, along with additional food and water supplies for them.
  • Seal all cracks around doors, vents, windows etc. with duct tape and plastic (heavier than food wrap).
  • Call your emergency contact and have a phone available if you need to report a life-threatening condition.

At Work, School or Another building

If the shelter-in-place order is given, the business or school should be closed immediately. If there is an emergency plan, it should be activated it to bring everyone indoors. Ask everyone in the building to stay on the premises and select an interior room where everyone will take shelter. As above, this room should have no or few windows. All windows, shades, blinds and curtails should be closed and cracks around doors and windows should be sealed. 

Once everyone is inside:

  • Write down the name of everyone in the room. If the business, school or building has an emergency contact, call the contact to report who is in the room.
  • Ask everyone to call their emergency contact to let them know where they are and that they are safe.
  • Collect emergency kits of supplies in the building. Try to find duct tape and plastic sheeting or garbage bags, as well as a working radio.
  • If there a building-wide PA system, use it to direct people to stay on the premises and to gather in the designated shelter locations. If you don't have a PA system, designate individuals to tell people verbally.
  • Have people familiar with the building's mechanical systems turn off, seal or disable all fans, heating and air conditioning systems. Pay particular attention to systems that automatically exchange interior and exterior air.
  • Turn on call-forwarding or voicemail. If possible, change recordings to indicate that the business, school or building is closed and that everyone is remaining in the building until authorities advise that it is safe to leave.
  • Keep listening to the radio or television until you are told all is safe, or you are ordered to evacuate. Local officials may call for evacuation in specific areas that are at greatest risk.

In Your Vehicle

If you are in your vehicle when the order is given and are very close to home, your office, or a public building, go there immediately and go inside and follow the instructions above.

If you are unable to get to a safe building, stop in the safest place possible. If it's sunny outside, it is preferable to stop under a bridge or in a shady spot to avoid overheating.

Keep listing to the radio unti you are told all is safe or you receive further instructions. Be aware that some roads may be closed or traffic detoured.

While in the car:

  • Turn off the engine and collect any available emergency supplies
  • Close windows, doos and vents as tightly as possible. If possible, seal with duct tape.