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Emergency Shelter-In-Place Protocol

What it Means to "Shelter in Place"

If an incident occurs and the buildings or areas around where you are become unstable, or if the air outdoors becomes dangerous due to toxic or irritating substances in the air, it is usually safer to stay indoors, because leaving the area may expose you to that danger. Thus, to "shelter in place" means to make a shelter of the building that you are in, and with a few adjustments this location can be made even safer and more comfortable until it is safe to go outside.

Basic "Shelter in Place" Guidance

If an incident occurs and the building you are in is "not" damaged, stay inside-seeking an interior room-until you are told it is safe to come out. If your building is damaged, take your personal belongings (purse, wallet, HU Capstone Card, etc.) and follow the evacuation procedures for your building (close your door, proceed to the nearest exit use the stairs instead of the elevators). Once you have evacuated, seek shelter at the nearest University building quickly. If the police or fire department personnel are on the scene, follow their directions.

How to Prepare to "Shelter in Place"

Although it is unlikely that you will ever need to shelter in place, it is helpful to know what to do just in case. The longest you should expect to stay inside is about 12 hoursusually less. A few simple items can make it easier and more comfortable should you ever need to shelter in place on campus. First, keep a supply of required medications with you.

The following additional items would be good to keep in the place where you spend the most time-your residence hall room or office-to support your personal comfort:

(Discussion and Explanation of the Office of Residence Life Survival Kit)

Additional preparation information:

  • Extra prescription medicine (if you need to take it during the period of shelter in place or in case local pharmacies don’t open immediately following the incident).
  • First aid supplies
  • Non-perishable food and bottled water (Most bottled water is good for about six months. If the bottle does not have an expiration date on, mark the date of purchase.)
  • Flashlight
  • Battery-operated radio
  • Extra batteries
  • A telephone (Remember during a crisis, telephone services may not be available.)

How You Will Know to "Shelter in Place"

Assume you should. But a shelter in place notification can come from several sources, including the Howard University Campus Police, the Office of Residence Life, residence hall staff, or other University employees, the federal or D.C. government, and the Metropolitan Police Department.

Notification of a need to shelter in place also may come over the radio and television. In addition, the University can announce the need to shelter in place on campus through building public address systems, other campus safety vehicles, as well as in person. In any emergency, conditions permitting, you can call the Front Desk in your residence halls or the Office of Residence Life at (202) 806-6131 and access immediate university community instructions via the Web at

How to "Shelter in Place"

No matter where you are, the basic steps of shelter in place will generally remain the same. Should the need ever arise follow these steps, unless instructed otherwise by local emergency personnel:

  1. If you are inside, stay where you are. Collect any emergency shelter in place supplies and a telephone to be used in case of emergency. If you are outdoors, proceed into the closest building quickly or follow instructions from emergency personnel are on the scene.
  2. Locate a room to shelter inside. It should be:
    • An interior room;
    • Above ground level; and
    • Without windows or with the least number of windows. If there is a large group of people inside a particular building, several rooms maybe necessary.
  3. Shut and lock all windows (tighter seal) and close exterior doors.
  4. Turn off air conditioners, heaters, and fans.
  5. Close vents to ventilation systems as you are able. (University staff will turn off ventilation as quickly as possible.)
  6. Make a list of the people with you and ask someone (Residence Life staff, faculty, or other staff) to call the list in to Campus Police so they know where you are sheltering. If only students are present, one of the students should call in the list.
  7. Turn on a radio or TV and listen for further instructions.
  8. Make yourself comfortable.
  9. Look after each other. You will get word as soon as it’s safe to come out.

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Residence Life & University Housing
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Washington, D.C. 20059