In the event of an emergency requiring the opening of a shelter for affected residents in a safe location, such as flooding or a severe winter storm, members of the public should listen carefully to the official notifications from their local Emergency Management officials. Depending on where you live, those notifications might come by way of reverse call notification, radio and TV alerts, warning sirens, variable message signs, text message, Tweet or other social media, door-to-door notification, or some combination of the above.
There are various types of shelters that may be activated, depending on the nature and duration of the emergency event. Shelters may be opened in a single community to serve as warming/cooling stations for its residents to utilize for a couple of hours at a time, but not to provide overnight accommodations. A local shelter could also be set up for a more serious localized incident (though still of short duration) that does provide food and cots for sleeping. In a larger event affecting multiple towns or lasting for a longer period of time, a regional shelter may be activated that would provide the full range of services to residents from a number of communities. These regional shelters might be run by the American Red Cross or by a team of administrators and volunteers from the contributing towns. In a mega-scale event requiring mass evacuations and sheltering, state and federal authorities may designate super-regional shelters (such as the Mass Mutual Center in Springfield) for affected citizens to go to.