Chemicals are found everywhere. They purify drinking water, increase crop production and simplify household chores. But chemicals also can be hazardous to humans or the environment if used or released improperly. Hazards can occur during production, storage, transportation, use or disposal. You and your community are at risk if a chemical is used unsafely or released in harmful amounts into the environment where you live, work or play.
The following are guidelines for the period following a hazardous materials incident:
- Go to a designated public shelter if you have been told to evacuate or you feel it is unsafe to remain in your home.
- Act quickly if you have come in to contact with or have been exposed to hazardous chemicals.
- Follow decontamination instructions from local authorities. You may be advised to take a thorough shower or you may be advised to stay away from water and follow another procedure.
- Seek medical treatment for unusual symptoms as soon as possible.
- Place exposed clothing and shoes in tightly sealed containers. Do not allow them to contact other materials. Call local authorities to find out about proper disposal.
- Advise everyone who comes in to contact with you that you may have been exposed to a toxic substance.
- Listen to local radio or television stations for the latest emergency information.
- Help a neighbor who may require special assistance – infants, elderly people and people with access and functional needs. People who care for them or who have large families may need additional assistance in emergency situations.
- Return home only when authorities say it is safe. Open windows and vents and turn on fans to provide ventilation.
- Find out from local authorities how to clean up your land and property.
- Report any lingering vapors or other hazards to your local emergency services office.
- If you have time, minimize contamination in the house by closing all windows, shutting all vents, and turning off attic fans.
- Stay upstream, uphill, and upwind! In general, try to go at least one-half mile (usually 8-10 city blocks) from the danger area. Move away from the accident scene and help keep others away.
- Do not walk into or touch any spilled liquids, airborne mists, or condensed solid chemical deposits. Try not to inhale gases, fumes and smoke. If possible, cover mouth with a cloth while leaving the area.
- If you are in your car, stop and seek shelter in a permanent building. If you must remain in your car, keep car windows and vents closed and shut off the air conditioner and heater.
- If you are requested to remain indoors: Bring pets inside.
- Close and lock all exterior doors and windows. Close vents, fireplace dampers, and as many interior doors as possible.
- Turn off air conditioners and ventilation systems. In large buildings, set ventilation systems to 100 percent recirculation so that no outside air is drawn into the building. If this is not possible, ventilation systems should be turned off.
- Go into the pre-selected shelter room. This room should be above ground and have the fewest openings to the outside.
- Seal gaps under doorways and windows with wet towels or plastic sheeting and duct tape.
- Seal gaps around window and air conditioning units, bathroom and kitchen exhaust fans, and stove and dryer vents with duct tape and plastic sheeting, wax paper or aluminum wrap.
- Use material to fill cracks and holes in the room, such as those around pipes.
- If gas or vapors could have entered the building, take shallow breaths through a cloth or a towel. Avoid eating or drinking any food or water that may be contaminated.