Core Procedures

Nearly every emergency involves one of three core procedures - evacuation, internal relocation, or shelter in place. As information becomes available or emergency conditions change, the core response may be altered, and in certain situations, a combination of responses might be used.


Used when it is safer outside the building than in, evacuations can be partial (only some occupants leave) or full (everyone in the building leaves).

Partial or full evacuation may be invoked in response to:

  • Fire
  • Hazardous material release or spill
  • Explosion or threat thereof
  • Bomb threat or suspicious package
  • Gas leak
  • Forecasted natural disaster (hurricane, flooding, etc.)
  • Extended utility outage

Shelter in Place

In some situations, such as a civil disturbance or an outdoor fire, it is sufficient to simply have people remain inside the building. Other scenarios, such as the threat of an explosion outside the building, require occupants to move to an area of relative safety away from windows.

Internal refuge areas should be designated in advance. Elevator lobbies and interior conference rooms, corridors, kitchens, and break rooms can all make good refuge areas. Access to bathrooms and water is recommended. Ideally, allow at least 10 square feet per person. If no safe refuge areas exist on a floor, designate appropriate spaces on nearby floors. (Note, however, that elevator lobbies are not good places to shelter when you have a hazardous material release inside the building. Elevator shafts continually draw air upwards, which may spread contaminants.

In the event of a chemical, biological, or radiological release that has spread inside the building, instruct occupants to seek shelter in offices, conference rooms, and other contained areas with relatively few ventilation ducts.)

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