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Chemical Emergencies

Oil cans rusting and leaking.
Oil cans rusting and leaking.

How do Chemical Emergencies Happen?

Hazardous chemicals are sometimes accidentally released during manufacturing, storage or transportation, such as during a train derailment or illegal dumping. Here are some things to consider when there is a chemical release.


Make an emergency kit with the following.

  • Duct Tape
  • Scissors
  • Plastic (to cover doors, windows and vents.)

If you suspect that a chemical substance has been released in a closed area such as a subway or building, try to avoid breathing any of the fumes and evacuate as quickly as possible. Immediately contact the closest police, fire and ambulance services. Decontamination might be required before you can receive medical attention. Heed advice from local officials. Stay put and seal off your space.

Exposure to a chemical substance may require quarantine and the attention of medical authorities. Because the type of chemical may not be known right away, treatment is based on symptoms. Keep track of things like breathing and heart rate, perspiration, dizziness, skin tone, deliriousness. Tell medical personnel and public health agencies about these or any other symptoms.

During an Emergency

  • Quickly try to figure out which areas are affected or where the chemical is coming from, if possible.
  • Get away immediately.
  • If the chemical is inside your building, get out of the building without passing through the contaminated area, if possible.
  • If you can't get out of the building or find clean air without passing through the affected area, move as far away as possible and shelter-in-place.


  • Close doors and windows and turn off all ventilation, including furnaces, air conditioners, vents and fans.
  • Seek shelter in an internal room with your disaster supplies kit.
  • Seal the room with duct tape and plastic sheeting.
  • Listen to the radio or television for instructions from authorities.


  • Quickly decide what is the fastest way to find clean air:
  • Move away immediately, in a direction upwind of the source.
  • Find the closest building to shelter-in-place.

After Chemical Emergency

Do not leave the safety of a shelter to go outdoors to help others until authorities say it is safe to do so.

You will need immediate medical attention from a professional if you are affected by a chemical agent. If medical help is not immediately available, decontaminate yourself and help others decontaminate. Use extreme caution when helping others who have been exposed to chemical agents.

How to decontaminate:

  • Remove all clothing and other items in contact with your body.
  • Cut off clothing normally removed over the head to avoid contact with the eyes, nose and mouth.
  • Put contaminated clothing and items into a plastic bag and seal the bag.
  • Remove eyeglasses or contact lenses. Put glasses in a pan of household bleach to decontaminate them and then rinse and dry.
  • Wash hands with soap and water.
  • Flush eyes with water.
  • Gently wash face and hair with soap and water before thoroughly rinsing with water.

The information you just read was provided by the United States government website: Ready.gov. You can see the original page here: https://www.ready.gov/chemical

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Click Here for information on what to do from the United States government website, Ready.gov.

Click Here to download a PDF file with information on what to do from the United States government website, Ready.gov.

PDF Information from Ready.gov

Click Here for information from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website, cdc.gov.

Click Here for the fact sheet from the National Academies and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

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This information is presented to make people aware of the larger world around them. If you can prepare for something as devastating as this, you're much more likely to be ready for smaller disruptions. Be aware and prepare.