Sheltering and Evacuation

Checklist for Shelter in Place

“Shelter-in-Place" is one of the basic instructions you may receive from San Mateo County public safety officials during an emergency. Sheltering in place offers you immediate protection. If you are told to shelter in place, go indoors immediately.

You are most likely to hear about a shelter-in-place emergency by radio, television, or warning sirens. Here’s what to do:

  • Immediately take your family and pets to the room you've chosen as a shelter.
  • If your children are at school, do not leave your house to go get them. Going outside could expose you to hazardous chemicals. Also, schools have emergency plans of their own.
  • Shut off heating and cooling units and fans that draw in air from the outside. 
  • If you have a fireplace, close the damper.
  • Shut and lock doors and windows. Locking makes a better seal.
  • Cover any windows with plastic sheeting. Seal cracks around the door and windows with duct tape.
  • Turn on your television (or if power failure, use your battery-powered radio) to a local station. Stay tuned until the "all clear" message is broadcast.
  • Stay off the phone. It should be used for emergency calls only.
  • Be prepared to evacuate if ordered to do so by public safety officials.
  • Evacuation instructions will be announced over the emergency alert system.


Checklist for Evacuation

If you are told to evacuate by authorities, please follow their instructions for your safety and everyone involved.

  • Use your AM/FM battery-powered radio to tune to the following emergency radio stations for the most up-to-date official reports regarding open routes, open shelter locations, and other specific directions (safety of drinking water, etc.):
    • - KCBS 740 AM, San Francisco
    • - KQED 88.5 FM, San Francisco
  • If there is time, take your most immediate needs, see checklist for to-go bags and vital information.

If you smell gas or see smoke or fire, evacuate immediately.

  • Get all persons out and call 911 from an outside location.
  • Grab your to-go bag only if there is time to do so.
  • Always follow the instructions of public safety authorities.


Checklist for Going to an Outside Shelter

In San Mateo County, we have pre-identified a number of potential disaster shelter locations. Because we live in earthquake country, it is impossible to predict when or where one might occur or what areas or structures may be impacted. As a result, we do not pre-advertise shelter sites.

Here’s what to do when it is necessary for you to relocate to an outside shelter:

  • Listen to instructions from authorities.
  • Use your AM/FM radio to listen to the following emergency radio stations for the most up-to-date official reports regarding shelter locations, open roads, and specific actions to take:
    • - KCBS 740 AM, San Francisco
    • - KQED 88.5 FM, San Francisco
  • If safe to do so, gather your to-go bag for your shelter stay.
  • Check whether emergency shelters take pets and the availability of other pet accommodations in the vicinity. Service animals are allowed in emergency shelters.


When to Call 911 in a Disaster
  • Call if you have immediate life-threatening needs.
  • Remember that 911 will be flooded with calls and the wait for assistance may be longer than usual.



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