5th Step – Be Informed – Options For Protection at Locations during a Disaster

Depending on your circumstances and the nature of the emergency, the first important decision is whether you stay where you are or evacuate. You should understand and plan for both possibilities. Use common sense and available information, including what you are learning here, to determine if there is an immediate danger. In any emergency, local authorities may or may not immediately be able to provide information on what is happening and what you should do. However, you should watch TV, listen to the radio or check the Internet often for information or official instruction as it becomes available. Further information on staying put or sheltering in place.


Find out what kinds of disasters, both natural and man-made, are most likely to occur in your area and how you will be notified. Methods of getting your attention vary from community to community. One common method is to broadcast via emergency radio and TV broadcasts. You might hear a special siren, or get a telephone call, or emergency workers may go door-to-door.


You may also want to inquire about emergency plans at places where your family spends time: work, daycare and school. If no plans exist, consider volunteering to help create one. Talk to your neighbors about how you can work together in the event of an emergency. You will be better prepared to safely reunite your family and loved ones during an emergency if you think ahead and communicate with others in advance. Read more: School and Workplace.

While there are warnings for many types of potential disasters, many emergencies and disasters occur without any warning. Since you can’t predict where you will be for disasters, it is important to have plans and supplies for the locations you and your household go to regularly. Planning ahead will ensure that you and your household will know what to do and have the supplies you need to be safe wherever you are.

Individuals and households should consider the locations they frequent; find out what plans are available for these locations, and customize their personal and household plans based on what household members would do if an emergency occurred while they were at that location. Examples of locations to consider and plan for include:

Regular methods of transportation such as trains, urban commuter transit
Places of Worship
Sports arenas and playing fields
Entertainment locations such as theatres
Shopping areas such as malls and retail centers
Tourist and travel locations such as hotels
Developing plans for different locations will require getting key information about the organization or building managers’ plans for the locations. In some cases if plans are not available, this may involve working with the building manager or other members of the organization to develop or expand plans. Information that should be considered includes:

How you and other occupants will get local alert or warnings while you are there
Building location alarm or alert systems
Building occupant evacuation plans including alternate exits
Building or organization plans for sheltering occupants in an emergency
Key Supplies you/household members and others would need for temporary sheltering
Planning should also consider how the type of structure or the environments around the structure or location may impact alerts and warnings, shelter and evacuation, and the need for supplies. Examples of considerations for the type of structure or the environment around the location include:

Single story vs multi-story or high rise buildings have different types of alarm systems, shelter and evacuation considerations.

Urban and rural locations may have different local assumptions and plans for evacuation if large areas are impacted.

Buildings like schools, sports arenas, and malls may have different plans for evacuation and shelter depending on the specific building structure and likely safe methods for evacuation or safe locations for shelter for different types of emergencies e.g. tornadoes.

Outdoor locations likes sports fields or golf courses need specific plans for rapid short-term shelter e.g. for thunderstorms and lightening or tornadoes.

Geography may be critical for some hazards, e.g. if the area is low and vulnerable to flash flooding

Mobile homes, modular structures and other buildings not attached to permanent foundations require planning for evacuation and alternate shelter locations.

Like individuals and families, schools, daycare providers, workplaces, neighborhoods and apartment buildings should all have site-specific emergency plans.

Ask about plans at the places where your family spends the most time: work, school and other places you frequent. If none exist, consider volunteering to help develop one. You will be better prepared to safely reunite your family and loved ones during an emergency if you think ahead, and communicate with others in advance.

Schools and Daycare

If you are a parent, or guardian of an elderly or disabled adult, make sure schools and daycare providers have emergency response plans.

*Ask how they will communicate with families during a crisis.
*Ask if they store adequate food, water and other basic supplies.
*Find out if they are prepared to “shelter-in-place” if need be, and where they plan to go if they must get away.

Apartments & Neighborhoods

Talk to your neighbors about how you can work together during an emergency.
Find out if anyone has specialized equipment like a power generator, or expertise such as medical knowledge, that might help in a crisis.
Decide who will check on elderly or disabled neighbors.
Make back-up plans for children in case you can’t get home in an emergency.
Sharing plans and communicating in advance is a good strategy.

High-rise Buildings

*Note where the closest emergency exit is.
*Be sure you know another way out in case your first choice is blocked.
*Take cover against a desk or table if things are falling.
*Move away from file cabinets, bookshelves or other things that might fall.
*Face away from windows and glass.
*Move away from exterior walls.
*Determine if you should stay put, “shelter-in-place” or get away.
*Listen for and follow instructions.
*Take your emergency supply kit, unless there is reason to believe it has been contaminated.
*Do not use elevators.
*Stay to the right while going down stairwells to allow emergency workers to come up.

In a Moving Vehicle

*If there is an explosion or other factor that makes it difficult to control the vehicle, pull over, stop the car and set the parking brake.
*If the emergency could impact the physical stability of the roadway, avoid overpasses, bridges, power lines, signs and other hazards.
*If a power line falls on your car you are at risk of electrical shock, stay inside until a trained person removes the wire.
*Listen to the radio for information and instructions as they become available.

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