Hazardous Chemical Release/Dangerous Goods
You can prepare for potential hazards by having a plan in place to deal with anticipated impacts of an event. Having your plan and emergency kit prepared in advance is the best way to support your family and pets. You may need to Shelter in Place or “hunker down” in your home for at least 72 hours (3 days) without needing to leave for supplies. Plan to be without power in many hazards that could occur.
Hazardous chemicals are sometimes accidentally released during manufacturing, storage, or transportation, such as during a train derailment or traffic accident. Here are some things to consider when there is a chemical release.
People may be exposed to dangerous goods when there is a fire or an accidental spill. Smoke and heat from a fire can carry dangerous goods, a spill on the ground can evaporate and enter the air, it may also be released as a gas and mix with the air. Once dangerous goods are in the air, we may breathe it. The dangerous goods may be a cloud, or it may not be seen at all. Sometimes we may be able to smell or taste the dangerous good to warn us of its presence. But this is not always the case and it is not the same for everybody. The effect that dangerous goods may have on our bodies depends on their nature, strength, and the length of time that we are exposed to them.
Listen for official advice
Emergency responders are trained to identify hazards and provide appropriate guidance to the public. Unless the dangerous goods are flammable, like natural gas, emergency response professionals may recommend that you stay indoors “
Shelter in Place
” until you receive instructions to leave. In some situations, you may be asked to stay inside or seal yourself inside the building you are in. Other times, you may be instructed to go to higher elevations or evacuate the area. You'll want to have your emergency kit close at hand, in a portable container such as a duffel bag or suitcase with wheels.
“Shelter in place” refers to the practice of remaining indoors during the release of airborne dangerous goods or other noxious air pollutants, as opposed to evacuating the area. It can be your safest option in a chemical release or dangerous goods emergency. Based on the circumstances, emergency management officials will let residents know if “sheltering in place” is appropriate or if an evacuation is required. They will provide information through local radio or by other public notifications systems such as via the National Alerting System.
Shelter in Place has been shown to be a safe response to a dangerous goods release of 3 hours or less. Our well weather-stripped buildings slow the movement of air into the buildings and any dangerous goods that do enter are weakened when they mix with the indoor air.
Shelter in Place
You may be instructed to "
shelter in place
" if chemical, biological or radiological contaminants are released into the environment. This means you must remain inside your home or office and protect yourself there. The following steps will help maximize your protection:
- Go indoors, close and lock all windows and exterior doors.
- Turn off all fans, vents, heating, and air-conditioning systems to avoid drawing in air from the outside.
- Close the fireplace damper.
- Do not operate the clothes dryer.
- Get your emergency kit and make sure the radio is on a local channel.
- Go to an interior room that's above ground level (if possible, one without windows). In the case of a chemical threat, an above-ground location is preferable because some chemicals are heavier than air and may seep into basements even if the windows are closed.
- Using duct tape or other wide tape, seal all cracks around the door and any vents into the room.
- Continue to monitor your radio or television until you are told all is safe or are advised to evacuate.
Things To Do if you are in a Vehicle and Encounter an Airborne Dangerous Goods Release
- Move away from the “danger area” and avoid visible clouds. If you can not drive out of the “danger area,” shut off your vehicle and wait with the radio on. Turn on your hazard lights and use your horn and headlights to attract attention and call 9-1-1.
- Turn on your radio and follow all instructions from emergency services personnel. If it is a flammable material, you will be required to shut off your vehicle and evacuate the area.
- Close all windows and air vents. Shut off the heater or air conditioner so that it is not blowing air.
Dangerous Goods Shelter In Place Emergency Kit
Sheltering in place preparations can and should be part of your family Emergency Plan. You should add the following supplies to your family emergency kit:
- Plastic sheeting – to seal windows, vents and doors
- Duct tape – rolls of duct tape to be used to secure the plastic over windows/ vents and to seal doors. (be aware that duct tape may damage finish)
- Battery operated radio with fresh batteries—in the event of a power outage, a battery-operated radio is necessary to hear emergency notification announcements including the “all clear” when the emergency is over
- Flashlight with fresh batteries
- Enough towels to block the bottoms of each door
- Bottled water for drinking
- Snack foods, and pet food, if necessary
- First aid kits
- Garbage bags can be used for storage of refuse or even as a bathroom
- Board games or cards
“Safe Room” Specifications
- Choose a room in your home that you designate a "Safe Room". Since many hazardous materials are heavier than air, a “Safe Room” should be above ground level, not in a basement. It should have:
- No or few windows.
- A telephone. If a regular telephone is not available, bring a cellular telephone for emergency use.
- Enough room for everyone who needs to shelter.
- Access to water if possible. A room with an adjoining bath is an excellent choice.
- If possible, try to store your emergency kit in the room, in an under-the-bed box or a container that fits in a closet shelf or in a cabinet.
“All Clear” Announcement
- While Sheltering in Place, persons should stay tuned to a radio or television for information updates and wait for further instructions from local emergency officials.
- Emergency officials may come door to door or provide information through local radio stations.
- An “all clear” announcement will only be made once the danger has passed.
- Persons may also receive instructions to ventilate their homes or properties by completing the following
- Open all windows and doors.
- Turn on all furnaces, hot water heaters, ventilation, air conditioning systems.
- As outdoor air may be fresher, occupants may wish to remain outside as your home or property is ventilating.
- Once the home or property is completely ventilated, all systems can be returned to their normal settings.
- Emergency officials will continue to monitor events after the danger has passed and provide information to persons in affected areas.
- Everyone should be aware of the possibility that the danger may return, and emergency officials may direct them to Shelter in Place again.
- Emergency officials may also issue an “Evacuation Alert” or an “Evacuation Order”. It is therefore important for everyone to remain vigilant and to follow all instructions.
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. Consult the Air Quality Health Index and consider adjusting outdoor activities if air quality is affected by the chemical release.
Authorities will not ask you to leave your home unless they have reason to believe you are in danger. If you are ordered to evacuate, take:
- your emergency kit
- your emergency plan
- essential medications and copies of prescriptions
- a cellular phone (if you have one)
- your pets. Note: Pets are not allowed in emergency shelters, so plan in advance for a pet-friendly location.
- safety measures similar to those when there is no emergency: buckle up and do not drink and drive. Also, make sure that children are properly buckled up and in the rear seat.
Protect your home
- Shut off water and electricity if officials tell you to.
- Leave natural gas service on unless officials tell you to turn it off.
- Lock your home.
If you have time
- Leave a note telling others when you left and where you are going.
- Call or e-mail your out-of-town contact. Tell them where you are going and when you expect to arrive. Once you are safe, let them know you are safe. Tell them if any family members have become separated.
Source: Get Prepared