Shelter Operations


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Managing Shelter Operations
Some disruptions may displace people from their businesses or homes. In those situations, you may need to provide shelter, either within your facility or outside. This may include activities ranging from short-term feeding to providing shelter for medical treatments or establishing sleeping arrangements for those displaced by the event.


Effectively providing for these needs requires a comprehensive approach that meets the immediate and common needs for food and shelter. The American Red Cross and local Emergency Management Agencies provide guidance on shelter operations and are expert sources for building your plan. In many cases, your local emergency services organizations may be able to help. However, it's important to know where you can get the essentials for building your emergency cache for after the disruption, when local sources may not be able to respond.



Providing shelter is critical if no facilities are available for operations or housing those displaced by the event. Protecting your operations center and the people displaced by the event will provide a center for the activities as you move through the phases of emergency management.


Management (Office Supplies & Equipment)

Maintaining order is crucial to any operation, especially when the event causes a disruption requiring temporary housing, feeding or logistics. Creating a work environment that helps create order will help your operations run more effectively.



Efficient communications with your team will help improve the flow of information and make managing the situation easier. Having the right equipment,along with reliable backup systems, facilitates the process and aids in your efforts.


Power, HVAC and Light

A reliable source of power to supply light, heating and cooling will ensure a more comfortable and safe temporary environment. Needs will vary based on the situation, so anticipating what your needs might be in advance will help provide some direction. Here are some questions to consider before you determine how much power and lighting you may need for your temporary shelter:


  • Do you already know how many people you will need to accommodate? If not, can you estimate?
  • How large do you expect the shelter to be?
  • How long will you need the shelter?
  • What is the weather like most of the time in your area; is this something you can plan for?

The following items will help you provide power, light and temperature control for your temporary shelter.


Meals and Foodservice

Whether providing shelter for displaced people, providing medical care or serving as an incident command center, you will likely need to provide food and water for the people in your shelter. Have these supplies on hand or quickly available to provide for this basic need.



Housing displaced people and providing sleeping accommodations requires advanced planning and adherence to protocols. Displaced people are naturally under stress, so it is important to provide a safe and secure environment for them to rest. Here are some items you will need to consider to accommodate displaced people overnight.


Personal and Medical Care

Although your local hospitals are likely to be equipped to handle medical needs, in the case of a surge alternate locations may be required to handle the flow of patients. This requires special arrangements, as dictated by the emergency medical staff in charge of the services.


Supplies and Equipment

Keeping a facility running, whether temporarily or permanently, requires many items that we often don't think about until we don't have them. Shelter operations require planning for a variety of needs and functions.




Effectively managing any facility or shelter requires having the right tools for the job. A combination of power and hand tools are essential for setting up the shelter and keeping it in good repair.


Additional Resources