Chemical Emergency Preparedness
Chemical accidents do happen, at home and in the community.
About Chemical Emergencies
Chemicals are a natural and important part of our environment. Even though we often don't think about it, we use chemicals every day. Chemicals help keep our food fresh and our bodies clean. They help our plants grow and fuel our cars. And chemicals make it possible for us to live longer, healthier lives.
Under certain conditions, chemicals can also be poisonous or have a harmful effect on your health. Some chemicals that are safe, and even helpful in small amounts, can be harmful in larger quantities or under certain conditions.
Chemical accidents do happen, at home and in the community. The American Red Cross wants you to be prepared by following our chemical emergency preparedness recommendations.
How You May Be Exposed to a Chemical
You may be exposed to a chemical in three ways:
Remember, you may be exposed to chemicals even though you may not be able to see or smell anything unusual.
Chemical Accidents Can Be Prevented
Prepare for a Chemical Emergency
Home chemical accidents can result from trying to improve the way a product works by adding one substance to another, not following directions for use of a product, or by improper storage or disposal of a chemical. Fortunately, a few simple precautions can help you avoid many chemical emergencies.
Many household chemicals can be taken to your local household hazardous waste collection facility. Many facilities accept pesticides, fertilizers, household cleaners, oil-based paints, drain and pool cleaners, antifreeze, and brake fluid. Some products can be recycled, which is better for our environment. If you have questions about how to dispose of a chemical, call the facility or the environmental or recycling agency to learn the proper method of disposal.
There are many organizations that help the community in an emergency, such as police, fire, and sheriff departments, the American Red Cross, and government agencies. All of these groups coordinate their activities through the local office of emergency management. In many areas there are local Hazardous Materials (Haz-Mat) Teams, who are trained to respond to chemical accidents.
If an accident involving hazardous materials occurs, you will be notified by the authorities as to what steps to take. You may hear a siren, be called by telephone, or emergency personnel may drive by and give instructions over a loudspeaker. Officials could even come to your door. If you hear a warning signal, you should go indoors and listen to a local Emergency Alert System (EAS) station for emergency instructions from county or state officials.
Important Points to Remember
In Case of Poisoning
The most common home chemical emergencies involve small children eating medicines. Keep all medicines, cosmetics, cleaning products, and other household chemicals out of sight and out of reach of children. Experts in the field of chemical manufacturing suggest that doing so could eliminate up to 75 percent of all poisoning of small children.
If someone in your home does eat or drink a non-food substance, find the container it came out of immediately and take it with you to the phone. Call the Poison Control Center (1-800-222-1222), or Emergency Medical Services (EMS), or 9-1-1, or call the operator and tell them exactly what your child ingested.
Follow their instructions carefully. Please be aware that the First Aid advice found on the container may not be appropriate. So, do not give anything by mouth until you have been advised by medical professionals.