RBC Shield, LLC

"The Complete WMD Protection Solution"

THE PROBLEMS WITH SIP

The following are "sheltering-in-place" solutions & actions recommended1 by the Department of Homeland Security, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and the Red Cross. Some of these ("enhanced" and "pressurized" sheltering) are typically not discussed or even mentioned in publications geared toward the general U.S. population or U.S. businesses.

Depending on the risks posed to the community and the degree of public education provided, one of four levels of sheltering may be implemented. The Oak Ridge National Laboratory defined these levels as follows: Normal, Expedient, Enhanced and Pressurized.2

Each level is listed below with solution(s) recommended, and problems that currently exist with those solutions:

Normal Sheltering - Closing all doors and windows and turning off all furnaces, air conditioners or other ventilation equipment.

  • In homes, contaminated air can still readily infiltrate through cracks, pores, seams, joints around doors and windows, through chimneys, door handles/locks, floors and ductwork.
  • In commercial buildings, contaminated air can additionally enter through elevator shafts, loading docks, wiring raceways, skylights and many other openings.
  • In commercial buildings, the capability to quickly turn off HVAC equipment is not likely to be available.
  • The degree of protection provided by Normal Sheltering might not be enough to prevent exposure to a harmful or even lethal dose of contaminated air. This is particularly true for a biological hazard, where even a minute exposure might be critical.
  • Explosions resulting from accidents or terrorist events can break glass and allow for rapid infiltration of chemicals & biological agents into the closed building.
  • Radiation presents a major risk that Normal Sheltering cannot address.

Expedient Sheltering - In addition to Normal Sheltering, taking simple measures to further reduce infiltration. Methods include placing plastic sheeting over windows and vents which are then sealed with duct tape, and taping over electrical outlets, around doors and other openings.

  • This method relies upon having the proper materials immediately available, having sufficient time to properly install the materials, the SIP occupants being able to locate the materials and the shelterees being properly trained in installing them --- and all of this under the extreme stress of a chemical or biological accident or attack.
  • While duct tape and plastic provide increased protection, both materials are permeable and will eventually become saturated with toxic vapors.
  • Most medium or large commercial buildings are not going to be able to be effectively sealed, nor are they usually going to stock the materials to attempt to do it.
  • In residential buildings, duct tape & plastic might provide a vapor barrier to prevent rapid infiltration of chemicals and biological agents through glass that has been damaged or broken by an explosive force. However, even in mild explosions, it is likely that shards of glass will easily penetrate plastic sheeting, thereby allowing hazardous or deadly gasses or vapors into the shelter.
  • Applying Expedient Sheltering techniques without Pressure Sheltering to small rooms creates the potential for asphyxiation by carbon dioxide poisoning.3,4
  • Radiation remains a major risk that Expedient Sheltering cannot address.

Enhanced Sheltering - Making modifications to the structure to reduce infiltration. Traditionally, these modifications are steps that are often used in weatherizing homes such as caulking around windows, doors and other places where surfaces meet, using weather stripping and installing storm windows.

  • These methods require that the entire structure be very carefully and very thoroughly treated. If this treatment isn't undertaken during each phase of construction, there will still be many ways that contaminated air can still readily infiltrate through cracks, pores, seams, joints, chimneys, floors and ductwork. Attempting to apply Enhanced Sheltering to an existing structure can be costly and with no guarantee of its effectiveness.
  • Commercial building are even more difficult than residential buildings to apply Enhanced Sheltering methods.
  • Radiation remains a major risk that Enhanced Sheltering cannot address.

Pressurized Sheltering - Using special gas-particulate, filter-blower units to pressurize a sealed room, building or other enclosure with filtered air. The filter-blower produces an outward flow of air through leakage points which prevents contaminated air from entering the shelter.

  • While it is technically and economically feasible to construct a sealed room in a residence that has Pressurized Sheltering, the typical homeowner is unaware of how this can be accomplished.
  • Commercial facilities rarely have pressurized enclosures except in bio-containment laboratories.
  • Radiation remains a major risk that Pressurized Sheltering alone cannot address.

Other Sheltering - Some companies offer pre-fabricated, underground shelters, complete with a pressurized air supply. Such units are expensive and require land that the typical urban dweller doesn't have. This type of sheltering isn't a cost-effective SIP solution for occupants of major metropolitan areas - areas that are often the most vulnerable to radiological, biological or chemical accidents or attacks.


Sources/Footnotes

  1. Dept. of Homeland Security.
  2. Rogers, G.O., Watson, A.P., Sorenson, J.H., Sharp, R.D. and Carnes, S.A. "Evaluating Protective Actions for Chemical Agent Emergencies (PDF)," ORNL-6615, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, April 1990, pg. xviii.
  3. A 5'X8'X8' room that is completely sealed will provide four adults with enough oxygen to last five hours. However, during that five-hour period, assuming a normal metabolic rate of 600 BTU/hr, the concentration of carbon dioxide (CO2 ) would be ~50 mm Hg. This is a very high concentration. The NASA Bioastronautics Data Book (Second Edition, pp. 48-49) indicates that after only 80 minutes, at ppCO2 level of ~18mm Hg, the subject can experience "mental depression, headache, dizziness, nausea." At ~45mm Hg (after 80 minutes), the subject experiences "marked deterioration leading to dizziness and stupor, with inability to take steps for self preservation. The final state is unconsciousness." Concentrations of 50 mm Hg or more of CO2 can be fatal.
  4. Dunaway, Brian. "Government Asphyxiation."