Homeland Security - How To Prepare at Home

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Pennsylvania Homeland Security
U.S. Department of Homeland Security
Emergency Planning for Homes and Businesses

Evacuate or Seek Shelter?

  • After an attack, hazardous materials may be in the air. Exposure may be higher on foot or in a car than in a sheltered room.
  • If not in immediate danger, stay inside and listen to the radio for instructions.

Preparing a Safe Room

  • Pick an interior room with few or no windows. Higher stories are better because chemical agents sink.
  • If feasible, pick a room with a toilet, water and phone.
  • Set aside duct tape and plastic sheeting for windows, doors and vents.
  • Prepare a disaster supply kit, so that you do not have to leave the room for at least three days. Most important is water, a gallon per person per day. Also include battery-powered radio and flashlight, extra batteries, first-aid supplies, prescription medicines, and long-lasting food that does not need cooking.
  • Choose meeting points (one nearby, one farther) and tell all family members how you will make contact if separated. Decide on an out-of-town phone contact for messages.
  • Consider inexpensive breathing filters, rated N95 or better for each family member. This is controversial, and the government has not recommended it for the general public. Research shows masks reduce exposure to some airborne agents, including anthrax.

Taking Shelter

  • Lock doors and windows.
  • Turn off heating/air conditioning, close vents and fireplace dampers.
  • Use tape and plastic over windows, doors, vents, electrical outlets and holes around pipes and fixtures. Use duct tape, not a wet towel, under the door.
  • Keep radio tuned to emergency alert system.

Family Evacuation Plan

  • Make "go packs" in advance including water, flashlight, food and a change of clothes and shoes. Adults should carry radio, cash, identification, car and house keys.
  • Become familiar with alternate routes out of your area.
  • Plan to take pets, assemble carry case, ID tags, food, newspaper or litter, and veterinary records.


  • Unless in immediate danger, or if an incident is inside, do not evacuate unless instructed.
  • Use routes suggested by authorities. Others may be blocked, jammed or close to danger.
  • If possible, go uphill and upwind.

Signs of Biological, Chemical, Radiological Attack
(Consider context or multiple signs.)

  • Reports from authorities.
  • An explosion or vapor cloud dispersing liquids, mists or gases.
  • An explosion appearing to destroy nothing but the package.
  • Many sick or dead fish, birds or other animals.
  • Unusual odor (sweet, fruity, pepper, rotten eggs).
  • Mass casualties without obvious trauma.
  • Victims salivating, tearing, having uncontrolled muscle twitching or trouble breathing, redness of skin.

Responding to Chemical Attack

  • Time, distance and shielding keep you safer. Move away quickly, uphill and upwind, and find shelter. When emergency workers arrive, seek medical screening.
  • If inside a nearby building that is in no danger of collapse, stay and listen for instructions.
  • If you think you have liquid or aerosol chemical agents on your skin or clothes, minutes count. Help yourself before professional help arrives.
  • After leaving the immediate area, remove all your clothing, jewelry, glasses or wigs.
  • Water is a good decontaminant. Wash hands before washing your body. If soap is available, use it, but do not wait for soap. Avoid hard scrubbing. Blot dry, don't rub.

Contact the

USC Police

Emergency Calls
Dial 412-833-7500
or 911

Administration Office
Monday - Friday

8 a.m. – 4 p.m.

Non-Emergency Calls

1820 McLaughlin Run Road  Upper St. Clair, PA 15241
USC Police Department