Decades ago, the Federal Government cut off funding for the maintenance of fallout shelters. Because of decreased threat of international nuclear war occurring, it was determined that fallout shelters were no longer needed. With advanced detection systems and information gathering capacity, government officials believe that there will be adequate time for the public to be warned and to seek shelter. In 1993, the Federal Government policy was to no longer stock fallout shelters with supplies, or to maintain shelters.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency in cooperation with the American Red Cross and local government leaders in each community work together to identify buildings that are suitable to serve as community shelters. Buildings are inspected after any natural or man-made disaster to ensure that they have no structural damage. They are also evaluated on how many people can be accommodated with food preparation areas, restrooms, showers, and sleeping space. Once suitable buildings have been identified, radio and television broadcasts over the emergency broadcast system go out, identifying buildings in the community that have been cleared to serve as emergency shelters. Often, schools are selected because of their large size, number of restrooms, food preparation areas, and football fields, where tent cities can be constructed. Newer buildings that have up to date building codes are usually selected.
The Red Cross maintains a list of good buildings that might serve as an emergency shelter. After a disaster, the emergency management agency inspects each of these before the public can be directed there for safe shelter. For this reason, the public may be told to use one building after one disaster, and be sent to another building another time. Do not automatically go to a shelter expecting help.
After disasters, debris covered streets, downed power lines, unsafe bridges and overpasses, and collapsed buildings make the process of inspecting buildings for structural soundness very slow. This process takes several days to complete. For this reason, every family should prepare for disasters and emergency crisis and be able to be self-sustaining for at least 72 hours.