Know the difference: Shelter in place and lockdown 2 very different emergency responses

By Willie Worsham, Fort Rucker Installation Emergency Management OfficerMarch 24, 2017

Know the difference: Shelter in place and lockdown 2 very different emergency responses
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FORT RUCKER, Ala. -- Knowing the difference between a lockdown and sheltering in place could prove to be life-saving knowledge during an actual emergency.

The major difference between the two forms of emergency barricade is based on the type of emergency you are barricading yourself from. Both are very different responses.


When people are instructed to lockdown, it is in response to an active shooter. During an active shooter emergency, people are asked to barricade themselves in a room with no windows, if possible.

If a room with no windows is not available in their building, people are asked to cover or stay away from any windows to avoid making themselves or others visible to any potential threat.

The idea of a lockdown is for people to remain properly secured and out of the line of vision of an active shooter until they are told the area is secure.


An active shooter is someone who, for whatever reason, decides to go into a populated area and start shooting. Usually, the shooter is not shooting at anyone in particular. The shooter is usually deliberate about his or her action and is not panicking throughout the process, so it is important to remain in lockdown until your area is secure.

They don't just stay in one place. If you've locked down, you've effectively kept the shooter out.

Always remember the run, hide or fight rule for active shooters.


Sheltering in place is in response to severe weather, and also a chemical, biological or radiological contamination that may have been released into the environment.

When individuals are instructed to shelter-in-place, it means the individual or organization should select an interior room or rooms with few or no windows. Once a room has been chosen, people should seal windows, doors and ventilation systems using tape, plastic and weather stripping in an attempt to avoid a chemical disturbance or weather-related disturbance.

Wet paper or wet cloth should be used to seal cracks in the building.

People can increase protection by using whatever means are available to reduce the ventilation rate. Things like turning off the air conditioning systems, closing all windows and doors, and avoiding using elevators can help decrease the risk of contamination.

If people become contaminated, it is recommended that they seclude themselves from co-workers, that they remove their clothing and place it in a plastic bag, and shower, if possible.

If the contaminated people cannot shower, they must wash off the areas that were not protected by clothing.

In either type of emergency, organizations should have an emergency action plan to determine an individual's role during these types of emergencies.

Once an emergency action plan is developed, organizations need to practice drill sessions to ensure that people are at least familiar with the process in case an actual emergency ever happens.

Community members will have an opportunity to practice lockdown procedures during a full-scale exercise scheduled for June 6-8 where the Mass Notification System will be tested and lockdown procedures can be practiced.

Related Links:

USAACE and Fort Rucker