"Shelter-in-place" means to take immediate shelter where you are—at home, work, or school. When sheltering in place, the facility or structure where you are located will provide protection from elements outside (debris, chemical release, etc.). A multitude of hazards can require sheltering in place, but in general, sheltering-in-place is appropriate when conditions outside are unsafe and a higher degree of protection is available inside.

Strategies for Effective Sheltering-in-Place

To effectively shelter-in-place, you must first consider the hazard and then choose a place to shelter in the building that is safe. For example, for a tornado, a room should be selected that is in a basement or interior of the building. The following bullets provide general recommendations that may increase the effectiveness of sheltering-in-place:

  • Shelter in an area that will shield you from the hazard.
    • A proper shelter area will vary based on the hazard, but in general, choose an area away from windows and glass, with no vents, and away from room corners where debris can accumulate.
    • Large storage closets, utility rooms, pantries, break rooms and copy and conference rooms without exterior windows may work well as shelter areas.
    • For suspected chemical releases, in some instances it is better to shelter in a room above ground level, because some chemicals are heavier than air and may seep below ground.
    • For suspected radioactive releases, choose a centrally located room or a basement.
  • When sheltering-in-place, crouch down along the wall and protect your head with your hands, if necessary.
  • Stay away from all windows and doors and if possible move to an interior corridor.
  • Stay away from lobbies, walkways, atriums and other large glassed-in areas. Additionally, stay away from large, open areas with a long roof span.
  • If possible, take a cell phone, NOAA public alert radio, and flashlight.
  • If outside, seek shelter in the nearest building.
  • Time permitting, close and lock external facing doors and windows and close curtains, blinds, or shades.
  • If instructed, use duct tape and plastic sheeting or heavy-duty plastic garbage bags, to seal all cracks around the doors, windows, or vents.
  • Facility managers should turn off HVAC and/or systems that exchange inside air with outside air.
  • Consider that a shelter-in-place event can last minutes to hours. Be cognizant of seating areas and of access to restrooms.
  • Remain in sheltered area until given the all clear by the City of Chicago Emergency Sirens. The siren will give a long blast for approximately 30 seconds. Radio and TV stations, NOAA Public Alert Radios, and cAlerts will also be used to signal that an all clear has been given.
  • When given the all clear, open windows and doors, turn on HVAC and ventilation systems and go outside until the building's air has been exchanged with the now clean outdoor air.

Notification of Building Occupants

The University notifies its community of an emergency using the cAlert system. However, due to the fast moving nature of the event, it may not be possible to notify building occupants in a timely manner. Therefore, shelter-in-place may be prompted by the signaling of sirens or notification from building managers, safety teams, or other building occupants that are aware of an immediate danger.

If you feel your safety is jeopardized and sheltering in place is an appropriate strategy giving your circumstances, you do not have wait for an official notification.

Shelter-in-Place for Persons with Disabilities

Individuals with mobility impairments have the option of sheltering within an Area of Rescue Assistance or Priority Rescue Area.

Emergency Supply Kit

Consider developing a workplace disaster kit that contains a flashlight, food, water, and other supplies. For recommendations on what to include in an Emergency Supply Kit, read the Personal Emergency Planning Brochure.

Safety Assessment

After an all clear has been given, building occupants should contact supervisors or other appropriate individuals to inform them of their safety and location.


Identify areas suitable for shelter-in-place prior to an incident. This will allow you to think clearly during an emergency and increase the odds of your safety. Also, communicate expected actions or procedures during emergencies to family members and loved ones. Finally, review your building’s emergency procedures and be vigilant of threats in your vicinity.