Some observations from the Gulf War sitting in a safe
room in Tel Aviv
(very basic) Updated 26 July 2006
Important: The material below refers to a situation in which chemicals or gas may be present and does not refer to 'protected space' appropriate to short range missiles without chemical or gas. However, in both cases a number of items should be identified for taking with you in case of evacuation to include important papers, documents such as ID cards, change of clothing, necessary medicines for individual conditions, small food items, small bottles of water, tissues, first aid kit, needle and thread.
This is not a professional evaluation and should not be depended on as
correct or the last word in safe room preparation. The page only includes those things which we feel should be given particular emphasis. You must use your
own judgment given the particular circumstances in which you find
yourself. Check other sites on Family and Personal Preparation for Terrorist Attack for detailed information and material
which is not included here.
Safe rooms are usually only for a limited time (the initial period after the release of a
chemical warfare agent).
Very Important: A well sealed safe room has a limited amount of oxygen which will not
be sufficient for a number of individuals for more than a very limited number of hours. It is important not to have a flame of any kind in the room as this will rapidly deplete the amount of oxygen.
See recommended floor space in a room per person for a specified number of hours.
A safe room will generally reduce the amount and rate of air exchange
with the surrounding environment and should not be counted upon to be
the last word in defense. If you are in an area that has been targeted,
rescue teams will arrive, and information of when and where to evacuate will be given within a short period of time.
For list of things to do, not do, necessary and other items for a safe room, see bottom of page.
Make allowances for an extra 2 to 4 people you did not count
on. In our case, a neighbor downstairs and her daughter who had just returned to
Tel Aviv for the daughter to go to school when the siren sounded, and
an elderly woman upstairs who had not really been aware of the need
for a safe room.
If the safe room is also one normally lived in, do most of the sheeting and taping
beforehand on outlets and sockets, etc. not normally changed. Have the sheeting
and taping in place to be rolled or placed over often used windows or door in a matter
Other things to have prepared:
Have a pail filled with water and bicarbonate of soda (sodium bicarbonate) (1 tablespoon per cup water) and the towels
necessary to place at the
bottom of the door.
Have the glass in windows already taped against shattering.
Have the boxes of things you need in the room, so that everybody is not running around
collecting all of the materials you want when the siren goes off.
Have all food ready to eat cold. Do not plan to cook in the room. Flames use a great deal of
oxygen, there is always the danger of fire, and the smells of cooking are difficult to get rid of in an enclosed room.
I would not even have matches in the room.
Give everyone a job to do so that when the siren sounds, each individual knows
what is expected in completing the final arrangements before the doors and
windows are shut. It is also helpful to delegate responsibilities (even for small tasks) during the time in the safe room.
Make the seating as comfortable as possible - probably on
the floor - you may be there a long time.
Have plenty of blankets, changes of clothing, and warm clothing if cool
Have an electric fan in the room for the rise in temperature
with people in a cramped space. If there will be babies or children,
or the possibility of them, be sure to use only fans with wire mesh
or equivalent covering.
Have plenty of bags of chips, candy, etc. and plenty
of reading material, paper and pens, pencils. You will find that having something to munch
on and being by yourself is necessary after a little time in there.
Making Room Safe
If there is the possibility of explosions, be sure to put tape
across the glass of your window(s) to prevent splintering of the
glass. If you are sitting against an inside wall as you should, and
it faces the window(s), have some barrier between you and the windows.
For nuclear attack, a basement or underground shelter is best. However, depending
on the chemical used in a chemical attack, upper floors are usually better since
several of the chemicals which may be used are heavier than air and tend to flow along the ground.
Some others disperse readily in open spaces. The safe room is normally protection
against the initial dispersion of a gas or chemical, and reduces the air flow into
Spend time on the plastic sheeting and taping of all outlets. Use substantial plastic sheeting (if the plastic you have is not thick, then double it. It may be best that each layer be taped separately) and duct tape or similar heavy tape (DO NOT use cello tape, electrical tape and adhesive tape as these will not hold)
Good taping is worth every extra minute spent. Light fixtures (sockets),
cracks in walls as well as the window(s), internal box holding window shutters, all heating and air vents, and door(s) should be carefully
taped up. If you are using a socket, put tape around the plug and tape
it air tight to the socket. Have extra tape and plastic sheeting.
Normally do not use a bathroom as a safe room since
much of the piping is difficult to access and to tape.
Take into consideration that the spaces between the wood in floors or tiles may be porous. If water seeps down between the wood or tiles, than measures
should be taken to block off this possible entrance using overlaid
plastic sheeting and taping up to and over the wall boards.
If you do not have a chemical toilet, unscrew the seat from
the toilet and use a bucket with bicarbonate of soda. Make sure everyone visits the bathroom before they
enter the safe room. During the Gulf War, the siren had gone off, and
I was in the bathroom when I heard a missile go over the house. I said
to myself "I don't have time for this." But normally things are not
that close. If you expect to be in the safe room for some time, also
have several large jars with lids which can be more easily used.
Have plenty of bicarbonate of soda (sodium bicarbonate), or household bleach (5%) and soap.
Sodium bicarbonate can be useful for so many things - medical (see medical pages),
brushing teeth, reducing odors, put in water soaked
towels to be placed under doors (1 tablespoon per cup water) as extra protection against chemical infiltration and air exchange, etc.
see first Aid, Decontamination section of Family and Personal Preparation for Terrorist Attack "Chemical Agents - Indiana State Department of Health..., U.S. Center for Disease Control..., Worst Case Scenario..., WHO Chemical and Biological Incidents and Emergencies..." and others for use of bicarbonate of soda, household bleach (5%).
Have plenty of water (for fire, first aid, etc.) besides drinking water (mineral water and other).
Have extra buckets, and pans or containers.
And canned or vacuum sealed bottled food (don't forget the opener).
Have with you a box with any medications needed.
Do NOT use candles - danger of fire and they also utilize
valuable oxygen. Use lights or flashlights.
Do not use an open flame heater and certainly not the home heating system which should be shut down and all ports in the safe room plastic sheeted off. Use electric heaters or plenty of warm clothing.
Have extra heavy plastic sheeting and twine or string to cover
feet and hands if you have to go out and the presence of chemicals is