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What is shelter in place or lockdown?

10 Nov, 2022

Shelter in place and lockdown are two emergency strategies used when staying put is safer than evacuation. 

“Shelter in place” and “lockdown” are safety responses to a direct threat. Both involve remaining in place until you are given an “all clear” or are told to evacuate. The specific scenarios these actions should be taken in should be laid out in your facility’s Emergency Response Plan.  While the two responses are similar at the core, they mean different things. Here’s a guide to help you better understand what is meant by shelter in place and lockdown. 


Shelter in place

The name says it all when it comes to shelter in place: this safety response means creating a shelter in the place you are currently in during an emergency – whether that’s a business, a hospital, school or even a residence. Usually, this action is recommended during emergencies when trying to evacuate is the less safe option. This could be due to a number of reasons, for example: a weather emergency, or an environmental hazard (chemical release, air pollution). The safety requirements will be different based on the type of threat. For example, in a weather event, you’ll usually be required to remain in the room that’s most protected from the elements. 


Some tips for finding a suitable shelter in place location

  • Ask yourself, can the door be secured?  Can you close or block the windows? If not, there must be an adequate way to create a barricade – whether that’s using furniture or another solution. 
  • You must remember that a shelter-in-place notice can last for hours. This is why it’s important to consider access to bathrooms, food, water, and the medical requirements of those sheltering.




Lockdown is another emergency response that is used only when it is safer to remain on the premises than to evacuate. Lockdowns are often used due to civil danger and emergencies involving human threats. During a lockdown, people are not allowed to freely enter, leave, or move around in a building or area to protect them from the danger. Shelter in place actions are also undertaken during lockdown events and much of the above will apply, however, these will likely also have additional security measures. 


Common lockdown safety features include: 

  • The sealing of entrances and exits, so people cannot enter or exit the building. Lifts will usually also be deemed non-operational under this directive
  • Depending on the threat, occupants may also have to reduce their movement and sound, and in certain circumstances, it might be necessary for people to remain out of sight. 


Key procedures for an effective lockdown:

  • If the directive for a lockdown is given, the first point of call is to immediately lock or block all doors, windows or any other entry points 
  • Staff, tenants or visitors must be kept away from these points 
  • Lighting, mobile phones and any other devices should be switched off, people should remain together but avoid making noise
  • Nobody should leave the lockdown until instructed to do so by safety personnel. 

A lockdown will end when individuals receive information from Emergency Services, or the building’s Emergency Control Organisation, that the situation is safe.



What happens afterwards?

Once the lockdown or shelter in place notice ends, visitors or occupants should prepare to evacuate from the location they have been sheltering in. This will involve adhering to the facility’s Emergency Evacuation Plan and following your organisation’s set of evacuation procedures. This is likely to include finding the assembly area, having each individual’s details confirmed, and responding to directives from emergency services and an emergency control organisation. 


Not sure your emergency evacuation plan is up to scratch? Fire Block Plans is here to help you and your team. Our highly-qualified experts will help find a suitable emergency evacuation plan, no matter how unique your requirements may be. Contact us today for more information.