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What do I need to know about Sheltering in Place?

Shelter in place in your own backyard

Shelter in Place

Many people hear the word ‘emergency’ and immediately assume evacuation, but according to first responders and emergency preparedness specialists, sheltering in place is more common.

Unless instructed to do otherwise, or there is obvious threat to your property (an incoming fire or tsunami for example), then stay home! It’s where all your good stuff is.

Reception centers, roadways, and public meeting places are likely to be crowded with people who may be desperate. Supplies are usually very limited in these places so having your own stores in a familiar place will hugely impact your ability to ride out the disaster in relative comfort and safety.

For many emergencies and rural locations a minimum of 1 week of supplies is recommended for Sheltering in Place. Be prepared to camp out in your yard if the house is unstable/inaccessible. As one of my preparedness mentors used to say: “emergencies are like camping, but the camping came to you.”

What does “Shelter in Place” mean?

At its most basic, sheltering in place is exactly what it sounds like. You take shelter where you are, whether that’s your home, school, or office. Because Total Prepare is located in an earthquake zone, we most often use it to refer to backyard camping if your house is unstable, but shelter in place might look different for different emergencies:

Earthquake- If your home is safe, stay indoors and tune in to the radio or news station. If your home has obvious damage or a cracked foundation, break out the tent and do some backyard camping until officials tell you it’s safe to return.

Weather- In extreme weather you may be instructed to shelter in place. This could be just staying off the roads, or it could mean taking shelter in your bathtub from a hurricane. Your emergency radio station or news channel should give you direction as to which.

Environmental dangers- In some cases shelter in place orders are given because there’s something contaminating the air outside. Wildfire smoke, nuclear emergencies, or other airborne contaminants could cause officials to give this kind of order. They’ll usually ask for all windows/doors to be closed, and furnaces, air conditioners, and exhaust systems to be turned off. If directed, cover doors, windows, and vents with plastic sheeting and duct tape and stay in interior rooms if possible.

I have a Bug Out Bag, do I need a Shelter in Place Kit?

Great question! Due to the nature of Shelter in Place kits, they are often not very portable. If an evacuation order is given, or you need to flee your home, it is best to have a kit designed for ‘grab and go’ at the ready. A good way to combine kits is to incorporate backpacks into your Shelter in Place kit. Include the first 72 hours of supplies for your Shelter in Place kit inside the backpacks so you can move quickly when needed.

Bug out bags and shelter in place kits serve very different functions, so it’s best to have both. You can never be too prepared!

Where should I store my Shelter in Place Kit?

This is one of the questions we receive most, and the answer is different for everyone. You want to keep your kit somewhere that is secure from pests but easy to access if you need it in a hurry. Popular choices include storing kits inside a vehicle or motor home, in a hall closet near the main exit, at the front of the garage, or in pest-proof containers in a shed. If you don’t have a good location to store your kit, don’t despair! In many emergency scenarios you will still have the time to grab it, or be able to get to it post-emergency with a little elbow grease.

I don’t have time to put a kit together.

Gathering all the items for a kit can be daunting, so Total Prepare has done the work for you! Our one and two week kits contain items to cover all eight areas of preparedness. These kits are designed for 2 or 4 people, and plan for a minimum of 4 liters of water per person, per day.

These kits contain Legacy Freeze Dried Food; complete entrée and breakfast meals with a whopping 25 year shelf life! Portable toilet options cover the other end of the cycle, and blankets, ponchos, first aid supplies, and other items will take care of everything in between!

I want to build my own kit, what would you recommend?

Everyone’s kits will be different, tailored to fit your family, lifestyle, and needs. Below, we’ve compiled a list of what we would consider a very comprehensive Shelter in Place kit. Don’t be overwhelmed! These items are only suggestions, and are a good place to get inspired. Not every item will be right for every household, so use your best judgement to create a kit that’s best for you.

Not sure if an item will work for you, or wondering why you might need something? Just want a second opinion on your kit? No problem! Just phone or email our friendly staff and we’ll be happy to talk things over with you.

Suggested Shelter in Place Kit Contents

  1. Potable Water – 4 Litres per person per day.
    1. Store as much water as possible.
    2. If space is short, consider using purification and filtration options.
    3. Want to learn all about water in emergency situations? Check out our other post here!
  2. Food – Aim to store 2000 calories per person each day, with a bare minimum of 1200. Long shelf life options are ideal, but cans are great too. Just remember to check your kit every year to cycle through any expired goods.
  3. Cooking surface/stove and extra fuel. – Noncombustible options are preferable if storing for long periods, or in hot locations. Camp stoves, barbecues, or grills for a campfire are great.
  4. Cooking/serving equipment. – cutlery, ladle, flipper. Essentials not everyone thinks of.
  5. Fire Starter – At least two methods. Practice with them if the method is unfamiliar (eg flint and steel.)
  6. First Aid Kit – Match the skill level of the household. If you don’t know how to use a tourniquet, don’t pack one. (Here’s why.)
  7. Solar or Crank Emergency Radio – Write your local emergency stations on the unit.
  8. Solar or Crank Flashlights – Not a good time to be looking for spare batteries!
  9. Solar or Crank Lantern
  10. A corded land line or method of charging a cell phone.
  11. Sleeping Bag/blankets
  12. Insulation from Ground – Sleeping mat/emergency blanket
  13. Tent & Tarps
  14. Light Sticks
  15. Alcohol based hand sanitizer – doubles as a fire accelerant (careful!).
  16. Heavy duty garbage bags and shovel – good for when a toilet isn’t available.
  17. Outdoor lidded garbage cans – waterproof storage, ideal if an emergency happens when it’s raining.
  18. Paper towels / toilet paper
  19. Power Generator – Solar is ideal for preparedness
  20. Playing Cards / Versatile Games 
  21. A Book or Magazine
  22. A USB stick with copies of important documents 
  23. Mementos/Comfort Items – Use your ‘important documents’ USB stick for family photos too!
  24. Tool for turning off gas/water lines – Only turn off your gas if directed or you smell rotten eggs.
  25. Changes of clothes – pack for different types of weather
  26. Rain Gear – Even a lightweight plastic poncho makes a BIG difference.
  27. Duct Tape
  28. Knife – For cutting rope, shaving kindling, etc.
  29. Multi-tool/Army Knife
  30. Work Gloves
  31. N95 Masks
  32. Toilet Set / Folding Toilet

Assess your needs and ensure that you have at least one thing to cover each area of preparedness (below). Once that’s done you’ll have a great base kit to work from or add to over time using the above list for guidance. Want to learn more about survival kits in general? We’ve written about that here.

The 8 Areas of Preparedness are: Water, Food, Light, Communication, Shelter, Heat, First Aid, and Sanitation.

Thank you for reading! If this article helped you, or if you feel we missed something, let us know in the comments below!

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