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Chemical Emergencies

Published on: 2/13/2013 4:18 PM
Shelter In-Place, Evacuation
Major Chemical Emergencies - A major chemical emergency is an accident that releases a hazardous amount of a chemical into the environment. Accidents can happen underground, on railroad tracks or highways, and at manufacturing plants. These accidents sometimes result in a fire or explosion, but many times you cannot see or smell anything unusual.
How You May Be Notified of a Major Chemical Emergency
In the event of a major chemical emergency, public safety agencies will provide emergency information to the public. To get your attention, sirens may sound, you may be called by telephone, or emergency personnel may drive by and give instructions over a loudspeaker. Officials could even come to your door. Listen carefully to radio or television emergency alert stations (EAS), and strictly follow instructions. Your life could depend on it.
You Will Be Told:
  1. The type of health hazard.
  2. The area affected.
  3. How to protect yourself.
  4. Evacuation routes (if necessary).
  5. Shelter locations.
  6. Type and location of medical facilities.
  7. The phone numbers to call if you need extra help.
Do not call 9-1-1 or the operator for information. Dial these numbers only for a possible life-threatening emergency.
Shelter in Place:
One of the basic instructions you may be given in a chemical emergency is to "shelter in place." This is a precaution aimed to keep you and your family safe while remaining in your home. If you are told to shelter in place:
  1. Take your children and pets indoors immediately.
  2. While gathering your family, you can provide a minimal amount of protection to your breathing by covering your mouth and nose with a damp cloth.
  3. Close all windows in your home.
  4. Turn off all fans, heating and air conditioning systems.
  5. Close the fireplace damper.
  6. Go to an above-ground room (not the basement) with the fewest windows and doors.
  7. Take your disaster supplies kit with you.
  8. Wet some towels and jam them in the crack under the doors.
  9. Tape around doors, windows, exhaust fans or vents.
  10. Use plastic garbage bags to cover windows, outlets, and heat registers.
  11. If you are told there is danger of explosion, close the window shades, blinds, or curtains.
  12. To avoid injury, stay away from the windows.
  13. Stay in the room and listen to your radio until you are told all is safe or you are told to evacuate.
Evacuation Authorities may decide to evacuate an area for public protection. Again, it is important to stay calm, listen carefully and follow all instructions. If you are told to evacuate, listen to your radio to make sure the evacuation order applies to you and to understand if you are to evacuate immediately or if you have time to pack some essentials. Do not use your telephone.
If you are told to evacuate immediately:
  1. Take your family disaster supplies kit and medications.
  2. Close and lock your windows.
  3. Shut off all vents.
  4. Lock the door.
  5. Move quickly and calmly.
If the authorities tell you to evacuate because of a possible chemical emergency, and there is sufficient time, take your disaster supplies kit: a change of clothing for each member of the family; medication, eyeglasses, hearing aids or dentures, or items like canes and walkers.  Do not assume that a shelter will have everything you need.  In most cases, the shelters will address emergency needs. You don't need to turn off your refrigerator or freezer, but you should turn off all other appliances and lights before locking your home as you leave.
Check on neighbors to make sure they have been notified, and offer help to those with disabilities or other special needs. If you need a ride, ask a neighbor. If no neighbor is available to help you, listen to the emergency broadcast station for further instructions. Take only one car to the evacuation site. Close your car windows and air vents and turn off the heater or air conditioner. Don't take shortcuts because a shortcut may put you in the path of danger. For your safety, follow the exact route you are told to take. Any material that is hazardous can eventually become a hazardous waste when discarded improperly. Hazardous materials pose a risk to people or to the environment. Proper and wise use of household hazardous materials is imperative.