Personal protective actions|
Posted 8/24/2012 Updated 8/24/2012
by Senior Airman Brandon Allen
341st Civil Engineer Squadron Emergency Management
8/24/2012 - MALMSTROM AIR FORCE BASE, Mont. -- Many of us have heard of numerous protective action terms, such as evacuation, shelter-in-place, lockdown and take cover. All of these actions are out there to help protect ourselves, but do we really know what each of them mean? It may be easy to know that we go into lockdown when there is an active shooter, but that does us no good if we don't know what lockdown actually is. So, when a situation arises and we have to protect ourselves, there are a few questions we have to ask to ensure we take the right steps to stay as safe as possible.
Your first question: when a situation arises, what am I trying to protect myself from? If you don't know what the threat is, how can you possibly protect yourself from it? Once you have figured out what you're dealing with, you can start looking at the different options to protect yourself.
Shelter-in-place is used if a migrating toxic vapor cloud could quickly overtake unprotected or evacuating personnel, or if evacuation would create problems that would outweigh its effectiveness.
Evacuation is used to move the public away from danger during emergency situations.
Lockdown is used to protect personnel from a threat such as an active shooter on base.
Take cover is used to protect personnel from various natural disasters, such as a tornado or earthquake.
In order to make the right decision, you have to know what each protective action is intended to protect against, as well as what is required of you in order to perform the action correctly and safely. The goal is to know the different protective actions well enough to quickly make the decision that provides the best protection.
Shelter-in-place requires a little pre-emergency preparation. In order for sheltering to work, you must have a designated shelter-in-place location. The location should be large enough to provide about 10 square feet per person sheltered and the area should have as few windows, vents and doors as possible. Pre-staged in the shelter location chosen should be the items you need to seal the room and sit tight for a couple of hours. Some of these items are pre-cut plastic, duct tape, towels, bottled water, flashlight, radio, spare batteries and anything else you might need.
Now that you've got your shelter location set up, you just need to know how to use it during an emergency. The best thing to do to prepare yourself is to develop a small, simple checklist for your shelter location. Here's a sample checklist:
· Go to a pre-determined shelter location.
· Shut and latch all windows and doors.
· Turn off all air handling equipment (heating, ventilation, and/or air conditioning).
· Seal windows and vents with sheets of plastic and duct tape.
· Seal the door(s) by placing a wet towel at the bottom of the door(s) and seal with plastic and duct tape around the top and sides.
· When the "all clear" is announced, open windows and doors, turn on ventilation systems and go outside until the building's air has been exchanged with the now clean outdoor air.
While requiring less preparation than sheltering, evacuation still requires a small amount of preparation. The preparation should already be done for you at your work center. There should be primary and secondary evacuation points for your facility. Each point will be at least 500 feet from the building and will be 180 degrees from each other. It is very easy to set up a plan like this for your home as well. Now that you know where you're going, when you get the message to evacuate, be sure to spread the word, stay calm and go to your designated evacuation point to take accountability.
While it could possibly be one of the scariest scenarios you find yourself in, lockdown is a fairly basic concept. If you hear lockdown, you want to make it look like nobody is home. Clear the hallways and get into a room where you can lock the doors and block yourself in with heavy furniture if possible. Turn out the lights and turn off any source of noise in your area. You want the shooter to feel like your location is not worth his time. But, since you can't predict what the shooter will do, ensure that you are planning while you are hiding. You want to have some ideas of what routes you can take and what you will do if you are confronted by the shooter. Keep in mind, in a life threatening situation, you may have to take action against the shooter and you must mentally prepare yourself to do so.
Another simple concept that may just save your life is take cover. If you receive signs that there may be a tornado or earthquake, take cover. In order to take cover, find a safe place first. You'll want to be on the lowest level possible and in the center-most room in the facility. Keep away from windows and loose furniture, such as shelving. Try to find shelter underneath a desk, table or inside a doorframe to provide overhead protection from falling objects. Taking these actions is the best way to protect yourself from getting seriously injured during an earthquake, tornado and various other natural disasters.
Now that you know some different protective actions and how they work, you should be well prepared for when an emergency arises. Be sure to check out some of the protective action measures already being used around you and see if you can help improve them. We can never be too prepared.
For more information, please contact the Installation Office of Emergency Management at 731-6632.