In the event of a chemical release, safety sirens (pictured at right) in Contra Costa County's industrial corridor will sound to alert the public. If you hear the sirens, or are told to Shelter-in-Place, emergency officials recommend these actions:
Contra Costa County has a Community Warning System in place that uses several tools to alert the public. If there is a chemical release with the potential to impact the community, the outdoor Safety Sirens located in the vicinity of the emergency will be sounded. The sirens will sound for about 3 minutes, and will be re-sounded periodically during the emergency. The sirens are tested on the first Wednesday of every month at 11:00 a.m. Safety sirens are located in the industrial corridor of the County from Oakley to Richmond. There are other CWS tools to alert people in case of an emergency in other areas.
Shelter-in-Place advisories are issued by emergency officials via the news media. County officials recommend tuning an AM radio to KCBS 740. NOAA weather radios in Contra Costa County with "SAME" functionality will also receive Shelter-in-Place alerts. (These radios have been provided to schools, childcare centers, hospitals, etc. in the industrial corridor to provide indoor alerting and information, but anyone can purchase a weather radio with SAME capabilities from a retail supplier. NWS radios will sound an alert tone, followed by a voice message about the chemical emergency. Consider adding a weather radio to your facility.)
The County also has a phone ringdown system that would automatically begin calling homes and businesses in the impacted area with pre-recorded instructions about what to do. Even unlisted numbers will receive this call in the impacted areas.
If emergency officials recommend that people in your area Shelter-in-Place, you should stay inside and encourage customers, vendors, and others to do the same. Allow people from outside to Shelter-in-Place in your facility. Begin implementing your site emergency plan. For a Shelter-in-Place emergency, you will need to stay inside until the chemical leak has stopped and winds have dissipated any vapors in the vicinity.
The sirens will sound initially for about three minutes.
County officials will announce the All Clear via the news media, so keep monitoring KCBS 740. There is no separate Safety Siren signal for All Clear. The sirens were not designed to be heard indoors. The County will also reactivate its telephone ringdown system to begin calling numbers in the impacted area with the All Clear message, but it may take a little while to call all numbers.
After the All Clear is announced, Health Department officials recommend that you open your windows and doors and air out your building.
The sirens are tested on the first Wednesday of each month at 11:00 a.m. They only sound for about one minute during the test, but will sound for three minutes during a real event.
CCC CAER Offers SIP GUIDELINES for businesses
If a major chemical release occurred, local emergency officials would notify people to Shelter-in-Place as a protective action. Shelter-in-Place means to go inside, close doors and windows, shut off heating or air conditioning systems and take any other steps necessary to prevent contaminated outside air from entering the building. Businesses have unique challenges during such an event. Employees need to be trained to know what to do. Customers and vendors will need instructions. What if people on the street enter your business looking for a place to get indoors?
To assist businesses with these challenges and help them get prepared for a Shelter-in-Place event, the Contra Costa County CAER (Community Awareness and Emergency Response) Group is offering planning guidelines to businesses in the county.
CAER's Business Shelter-in-Place guidelines include information and training materials to assist businesses in developing a Shelter-in-Place plan for their sites, including:
Every business should develop a written emergency plan that includes what to do in case the safety sirens sound or a Shelter-in-Place advisory is issued, just as the plan covers what to do in case of a fire or earthquake. A harmful chemical could be accidentally released from an industrial processing or storage facility, or during transportation from a spill involving a pipeline, railcar or truck. Chemical releases can also occur from municipal wastewater treatment facilities that utilize ammonia or even a community swimming pool that still uses chlorine.
To request a free copy by mail of the Business Shelter-in-Place guidelines, contact CAER toll-free at
(925) 313-9296. CAER will also provide speakers or onsite mentoring to assist with emergency planning.
What is a “Go-Kit”?
Go-kits are for everyone – not just got people with special needs. The purpose of a go-kit is to have survival necessities immediately available in a bag that can be grabbed when exiting a home, living situation, work, school, addiction program, day program, etc. in the case of a disaster. Having necessary items ready-to-go saves valuable time and insures necessary items are taken.
Special-needs people (frail elder, mentally or physically disabled, children) often do not have the physical mobility or mental acuity to gather these types of things up under the stress of a disaster. Even people without special needs may forget or not know what to grab under the stress of an emergency situation.
A go-kit is comprised of a portable (duffel) bag (preferably red or orange) to hold the following contents:
A go-kit can be placed in an inconspicuous place near an exit. If you own a car, keep a go-kit in the trunk in addition to the home. Many assisted living and board and care facilities have a go-kit in each person's room. Spread the word about go-kits.