What to Do: Stay Inside

At a glance

  • Getting inside of a building and staying there is called “sheltering in place.”
  • Staying inside for at least 24 hours can protect you and your family until it is safe to leave the area.
  • Always listen for additional instructions from emergency officials and radiation experts.
Stay Inside


You could be contaminated with radioactive material if you are outside in an area when a radiation emergency happens.

Radioactive contamination can spread in the same way that dust or mud can be tracked into the home. It can also spread to another person or object.

Radioactive material can land on

  • People
  • Buildings
  • Cars
  • Roads

It is important to get radioactive material off your body as soon as possible to lower your risk of harm. Removing radioactive material from a person, object, or place is called decontamination.

Decontaminating pets

If your pet was outside, bring your pet inside.

  • Wash your pet carefully with shampoo or soap and water. Then rinse completely.
  • Wear waterproof gloves and a dust mask, if you can.
  • Cover your and your pet's cuts and scrapes when washing your pet.
  • Wash your hands and face after washing your pet.

Decontaminating your home

Emergency responders or local officials will let you know if you need to decontaminate your home. They will give instructions for cleaning inside and outside your home or shelter.

For more information on keeping radioactive material out of your home or shelter, see Get Inside.

Other ways to stay safe while inside

Indoor air safety

  • Turn off fans, air conditioners, and forced-air heating units that bring air in from the outside, if possible.
  • Close and lock all windows and doors.
  • Close fireplace dampers.

Water, food, and medicine safety

  • Foods and drinks that are sealed or that were already inside are safe.
  • Public health, environmental protection or emergency management agencies will test drinking water supplies. They will make sure drinking water is safe.
  • Boiling tap water will not remove radioactive materials.
  • Washing and cleaning with tap water would is still safe.
  • If your medication was inside, continue taking it. If the container was outside, wipe off the container and continue taking it.

See Food, Drinking Water, and Medicine Safety in a Radiation Emergency for more information.