Ep. 09 Evacuate or shelter in place

Appalachian State University Emergency Planner and host Debi Trivette talks about evacuating and sheltering in place. How do chose what to do? How do you know whether you want to evacuate or shelter in place? Well with any incident, any emergency, especially for the first few minutes before responders can get to you, your safety is up to you.


Debi Trivette: Hi thank you very much for joining us today for our 9th podcast episode about emergency management at Appalachian State University. I am Debi Trivette the emergency planner for Appalachian State and today we are going to talk about evacuating and sheltering in place.

So, how do chose what to do? How do you know whether you want to evacuate or shelter in place? Well with any incident, any emergency, especially for the first few minutes before responders can get to you, your safety is up to you. So, you are going to have to decided, based on the situation, whatever that situation is, what do I need to do to take care of my safety.

Let's say there was a tornado, ok. What do we need to do? Well, unless our emergency mangers have told us to evacuate prior to the tornado beginning, you know under emergency evacuation orders, let's just say were in one of our campus buildings and all of the sudden a tornado comes up what do we do? We don't want to go outside, we want to stay inside, that's the best protection we can have in a situation like that. And where at inside is important as well. You want to get into the most interior place you can get. Generally, that is a hallway, but you want to be away from doors, and you want to be away from windows. You want it to be away from outside walls, because you're not protected on the outside walls. Anytime glass can fly around is obviously a danger. So, what you want to do is get to the most interior place you can get, the lowest place to the ground you can get and usually, you know like I said, that would be hallways, interior hallways or it could be restrooms. It could be offices, just depending on where those offices are set.

Let's say you're in a building where you have three or four floors and you cannot get to the bottom floor, what do you do? Well you still want to go to the most interior place you can get without doors and windows. So, you can't do the closest to the ground part, but you can get as close as you can get, just get to the most interior place you can get. Same thing for hurricane or let's say there is a severe thunderstorm, thunder and lightning, you surely do not want to be outside during something like that. If you are caught outside, you want to get inside. You definitely want to avoid trees or anything like that. If you can't get into a building but you can get into a vehicle, as long as that vehicle wasn't under a tree that would be a good plan. If you can get inside, get inside and again stay away from doors and windows. You don't want to be around electricity during a lightning storm, thunderstorm, those things you want to try to avoid.

Let's talk about something such as flash flood. Let's say it starts flooding and you are in one of our campus buildings. You are better off inside that out. Turn around, don't drown, is very real. Always in Watauga County, every time there is a flood, there is always rescues. Because you can't drive in flood waters safely because you can't see through the waters. You don't know if the bridge or the road or anything has been washed out. So, it's never safe to drive in flood waters, its just not.

If you can stay in your building even, let's say that you were on the first floor in say like Rankin where it floods in the first floor. Well what do you do then? You still will be better off to stay in the building. Because number one, its not going to get that deep. Number two, you have options to go up. So, you know you're going to better off inside the building. Stay in, shelter in place, don't try to get out. Walking in flood waters is a hard thing to do and its nasty and its dangerous.

When we had a flood here a couple of years ago, flash flood came up and it was quick and I was actually at a meeting in Anne Belk Hall and I needed to get to the emergency operations center which is in university police. So, I was walking from Anne Belk to walk over to university police and when I went to the steps between Rankin and Duncan the water there was up to my knees and was rushing very quickly. Um it was hard to keep myself steady and I'm a substantial person. So, it was hard for me to keep my balance, there were trashcans floating. During that event there was a propane tank floating, I didn't see one there but there was a propane tank floating. There were all kinds of stuff, I did see critters floating, so yuck. You know there could be electrical stuff. You don't want to be messed up in water and electricity, that's not going to be any fun.

If you can stay in stay in just don't get out in it. Flash floods will generally recede pretty quickly as soon as it stops raining. So, you're not going to be stuck forever. You will be able to leave you know, not right now, but in a little while you will be able to leave. Just don't panic and just stay in, stay in where you're at, that's the safest thing you can do.

Let's talk about if there was say some kind of chemical spill in your building. You know, if its in your building, you don't want to breath in chemicals and stuff like that so you would want to get out of your building. That would be a time you would want to evacuate.

But let's turn that around a little bit and let's say there is some kind of chemical cloud outside and it's not coming in through your hvac system or you could shut that hvac system down. Then you would be better off inside but if those chemicals are coming in your building through your hvac or whatever avenue, there is more air outside than there is inside. So, you would be better off outside. You're just have to make the decision based on whatever you have going on at the time. Number one, you take care of yourself do what you need to do to keep yourself safe and as soon as you possibly can call either 8000 for Appsate Police or 911 which ever one you can remember. Call and let the responders know because nobody can help you if they don't know about what's going on. So, call and let them know as soon as you can safely do so. But in the meantime, until they can get there to help you, you make the decision to do what ever it is that is going to keep you the safest.

Let's talk about other situations. Let's say there is some kind of explosion. Well if you can get out, getting out is the best thing you can do. However, we may not always be able to get out. If we can't get out, what then do we do? Well, we do the best we can. We get up under something if we can and we want to protect our head. So, you want to get as low to the ground as you possibly can and you want to put your hands, if you can't get up under a table or some kind of furniture or something, put your hands up over your head and protect your head. Your head needs to be protected. As soon as you can get out, of course, you want to get out.

If you can call responders, please make that phone call. Nobody can help you unless they know that you need help. So please let the responders know just as soon as you possibly can. And sometimes when an explosion happens, in a little bit, maybe right this second you can't get out, but maybe things shift around and maybe in a minute you can. so of course, as soon as you can get out, get out. Until you can evacuate, shelter in place as best you can.

Let's talk about a fire. We have all been taught and we know that if the fire alarm sounds or if we see a fire we need to get out of the building and that's absolutely true. But maybe the fire would have us trapped. So, if that happens what do we do? Well, the freshest air is closest to the ground and you know smoke rises. So, you want to get as close to the ground as you can possibly get in the area you're in and you still want to avoid windows if you can and doors if you can. You want to make that phone call if you can do that, please make that phone call get responders on the way. Try to shut the door if there is a door that you can shut where you're at, try and shut the door. Try to somehow alert folks to where you are. If it is sticking a sign somewhere or if its banging on something. Whatever you can do to alert authorities to where you are at so they can help you then that's what you want to do. You would kind of be forced to shelter in place in that situation. But like we were talking about with an explosion, in a fire, sometimes its right here right now and I can't do nothing but in a matter of seconds or a minute or so it has moved, and I can do something. So as soon as you can evacuate, absolutely evacuate. But until you can get out, you know, try to get as low as the ground as possible and maybe pull your shirt or something over your face and mouth to help filter that smoke and alert somebody to where you're at if its at all possible.

Other situations where we might not know whether to shelter in place or evacuate. One such could be active shooter, of course. You know, if you can run, run. Get out, get away, go as far as you can, get out of here. But if you can't run, then shelter in place, hiding is your best option. So, you would, of course, secure your door as best you could. Um turn off your cell phone don't put it on vibrate don't let it make any sound, silence it completely. Turn off lights and hide yourself as best you can. If they don't see you, they are not likely to shoot you. So, if you can shelter yourself to where you won't be seen then that's your best option-to shelter in place, hide in place until you can run. If there comes a time that you can run, then you would run. We teach run, hide, fight. While you are hiding, be thinking ok if that person comes through that door, what am I going to do to fight for my life. So, in this instance sheltering would mean you come up with a plan to fight if you have to. That would be your last resort but always keep that in mind.

Any place you're at, whether you're on campus or you're out and about, Walmart, or wherever you're at, when you go into a place, look around and see where your exits are. See how if something happens how you can get out of the space that you're going to enter into. And try and have you two ways to get out. Try and find two ways to get out of that area, wherever it is at. You know, you never know what is going to happen and the things that we tell you to do on campus is to do anywhere. Just think about your safety and what you need to do should something happen while you were at Walmart or a move theater or the gym or wherever it is your going, church, whatever you're doing. Think about ok if something happened while I was in this place, how could I get out or if I couldn't get out where is a good option form me to shelter in place. Just try to keep those thoughts in the back of your mind at all times so you can be prepared. You will have thought about it and you can react appropriately.

So, that's pretty much what we have on shelter in place and evacuation. I thank you very much for joining us today and please plan to listen again to our next episode of Emergency Management at Appalachian State. For more information about Emergency Management and topics or training opportunities, please visit emergency.appstate.edu. Feel free to email questions to safety@appstate.edu.

Thank You Very Much.