Stay-At-Home vs. Shelter-In-Place

Knowing the difference could save your life


The situation seems to change daily during these troubled times. With the COVID-19 pandemic altering the way many of us live our daily lives, confusion and uncertainty are common side-effects during this crisis. One thing that the Foley Fire Department is stressing to the public is the importance of understanding the differences between Stay-At-Home orders and Shelter-In-Place orders.

“Anybody on social media is probably seeing posts about the current Stay-At-Home order,” the department posted on Facebook. “You may be seeing this called a Shelter-In-Place order by some, but that is not the proper terminology.”

Governor Kay Ivey recently placed Alabama under a Stay-At-Home order. But what exactly does that mean, especially when compared with a Shelter-In-Place order? It means while everyone is encouraged to stay at home during the pandemic, there are also exceptions.

“Shelter-In-Place is a real thing, often used during radiation, chemical, and sometimes weather emergencies,” the Foley Fire Department posted. “A true Shelter-In-Place differs from the current Stay-At-Home by restricting any outside access and usually wouldn’t last weeks at a time. Shelter-In-Place generally means there is an immediate threat to life and limb.”

Under the current Stay-At-Home order, essential employees are able to leave their homes and go to work as scheduled. Families confined at home can walk outside into their yard, do yardwork, and go for walks and runs. People can make trips to grocery stores or place a To-Go order from local restaurants who are offering curbside pickup or delivery. So while it is highly encouraged individuals remain indoors and travel as infrequently as possible, people are still able to leave their homes all the same.

“Under our current Stay-At-Home order, it means if at all possible you stay at home until this whole situation is over with, but there are exceptions because people have to live life,” said Foley Fire Chief Joey Darby. “But if we, along with the help of our police department, ever issue a Shelter-In-Place order, that means you stay confined inside your home, don’t even go into your yard; you do not leave your home until we’ve deemed it safe to do so.”

Darby states it’s crucial that people understand the difference between the current Stay-At-Home order and a Shelter-In-Place order, because if the state or your municipality were ever forced to issue a Shelter-In-Place order due to severe weather or a hazmat situation, understanding the difference could mean life or death.

To read more about sheltering terminology, check out