Sheltering in Place 101: Best Practices for a New York City Apartment or House.

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March 20, 2020
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What should a New York City resident do to prepare to “shelter in place”? This guide will help you with the basics.

Olivia Jovine, Urban Planning Analyst at Localize, spends a lot of time thinking about the city’s built environment and wrote a handbook for New Yorkers: Disaster Preparedness NYC.

The handbook has essential information for sheltering in place, and emergency preparedness– specifically for New Yorkers who live in small apartments. She shares her knowledge in this post on how to best prepare, especially when space is limited.  

First things first

Photo by Alejandro Barba on Unsplash

You’re lucky, you’ve already rented an apartment in NYC or bought a place and can call it home. In these uncertain times, gratitude for these basic necessities is not taken lightly. So now that you’ve found a home, how do you “shelter” in it?

What can New Yorkers expect, and what are the rules to a “Shelter in Place” order?

State and local officials placed this order due to the rapidly escalating COVID-19 pandemic in the city, where schools, restaurants, and gyms have already been closed.

New York City residents can look to San Francisco’s shelter in place order for an example of what to expect. Essentially, residents should not leave their homes unless it is absolutely essential, this includes: seeking medical attention, getting groceries, animal care, or work for essential business or government services. In San Francisco residents are also permitted to walk their dogs, or go outside for a walk alone or with someone they live with.

The public is being asked to voluntarily comply, and by law these rules are enforceable as a misdemeanor. 

Stocking up! 

Stocking up on groceries and supplies limits the amount of trips one needs to take outside, and therefore is being recommended. Be a good neighbor: stock up, and then stop. There is no benefit to hoarding.  


Residents do not need to store water in their homes, the COVID-19 pandemic does not have an impact on the New York City water supply. New Yorkers can continue to drink tap water, as always. The only required time to purchase bottled water is if there are wide-spread power outages, similar to the outages experienced during Superstorm Sandy. No power, means no water. Fortunately, this time that’s not required and it’s one less thing you need to carry back from the store. 


Photo by Brett Jordan on Unsplash

It is recommended to have at least a three day supply of groceries and supplies on hand. Before doing your shopping, determine your calorie requirements, which are dependent on a person’s size, activity level and age. On average an adult requires at least 1,600 calories  per day to stay reasonably comfortable, which is represented in about 1 pound of dry bulk goods such as legumes, grains, pasta, or rice. Use the following list to estimate the calorie needs for yourself and others:  

  • Sedentary woman and older adults: 1,600 calories per day 
  • Most children, teen girls, active women, pregnant and nursing women, and sedentary men: 2,200 calories per day
  • Teen boys, and active men: 2,800 calories per day 

A disaster situation is not the time to try a diet, limiting calorie intake reduces the body’s immune system and increases levels of stress, making it difficult to stay calm and healthy in an emergency situation. 

Once you have determined your calorie needs, the next step is deciding what food items you will store. With space for storage at a premium, consider storing a smaller amount of high-calorie canned foods. There are many reasons why canned foods should be the star staple of your home emergency kit reserve: canned foods do not require refrigeration, cooking, or water for preparation, are often high calorie and high in nutrients, are fully sealed and therefore impervious to pests and can be easily stored in out-of-the-way places.

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Photo by 🇨🇭 Claudio Schwarz | @purzlbaum on Unsplash

You can store cans anywhere as long as they are safe from freezing, which can lead to spoiling. Do not eat from cans that are corroded, dented, or bloated if the food contents seem normal. 

Elderly or Infirmed New Yorkers 

It’s important to account for those who need a little extra care. For vulnerable people, staying indoors is even more critical in this time. During Superstorm Sandy, countless elderly New Yorkers were unable to climb the many stairs to and from their city apartments and relied on the kindness of others to help them through the storm.  

For everyone else, it is important to break the “privacy barrier” that we often experience in New York. If you know someone in your building might need help, offer to run to the store, take out the trash, or extend a helping hand. There are simple ways to deliver supplies while still maintaining social distance. 

Spending a lot of time indoors 

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Photo by Sandro Schmocker on Unsplash

If you’re practicing social distancing under self quarantine, or abiding by the suggested shelter in palace rules, you’re going to be spending a lot of time in your apartment or home. It’s in these moments that we realize some of the limitations our small city apartments present.

It’s time to explore your neighborhood from the indoors

It looks like you will be spending some time between the walls of your City home, but it doesn’t mean you can’t still be social with others. Share your words of wisdom about your building, landlord, amenities and much more with others. Simply search your address on, see what your neighbors have already written, and share your thoughts.

Also, if you have down time between working from home, catching up on old tv shows, and/or wrangling kids, it’s a great time to explore buildings and apartments in the City as a means of escape.’s team of urban planners and data scientists continue to enrich the platform’s deep knowledge about every building and apartment in NYC. It’s a great way to research the details about every address in the City.

For example, curious to learn more about your last apartment, your friends’ apartments, or even abodes of the rich & famous? Check out Localize.

Get the full story about your address right now on Localize.City

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