A chemical release is when toxic gases, liquids or solids are released into the environment, either intentionally or unintentionally, with the potential to poison people and the environment. When these chemicals are released, factors such as the number of affected population, weather conditions, chemical(s) involved, length of duration for the incident, and similar concerns all become part of the decision-making process.
Once all factors are weighed, a decision will be made to either request voluntary evacuation or request public participation with Shelter-In-Place protections. In some cases, if nobody will be exposed to the material, then neither action is necessary.
Preparing for a Chemical Emergency
- Quickly try to define the impacted area or where the chemical is coming from, if possible.
- Take immediate action to get away.
- If the chemical is inside a building where you are, 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 area where you see signs of a chemical attack, it may be better to move as far away as possible and shelter-in-place.
- If you are outside, quickly determine the fastest way to find clean air. Consider if you can get out of the area or if you should go inside the closest building and "shelter-in-place."
Biological agents are the deliberate release of organisms or toxins such as bacteria and viruses that can kill or incapacitate people, livestock and crops. These agents are difficult to cultivate and sustain. Many break down quickly due to environmental factors, however, some such as anthrax spores, are very long lived.
Biological Agent Delivery Methods
- Food and water contamination
If You See Suspicious Substances
If you become aware of unusual and suspicious substances nearby:
- Move away quickly.
- Wash with soap and water.
- Contact authorities.
- Listen to the media for official instructions.
- Seek medical attention if you become sick.
Radiological / Nuclear
Radiological / Nuclear attacks are the intentional spread of radioactive material with the objective being to cause harm. Only trained personnel will be able to detect radiation. As with any radiation, you want to try to limit exposure. It is important to avoid breathing radiological dust that may be released into the air.
If there is a radiation remember the following:
- If you are outside and there is an explosion or authorities warn of a radiation release nearby, cover your nose and mouth and quickly go inside a building that has not been damaged.
- If you are already inside, check to see if your building has been damaged. If your building is stable, stay where you are.
- Close windows and doors; turn off air conditioners, heaters or other ventilation systems.
- If you think you have been exposed to radiation, remove your clothing and shower thoroughly as soon as possible.
- Stay where you are. Watch TV, listen to the radio, or check the internet for official news as it becomes available.
- Remember: Limit the amount of radiation you are exposed to. Think about time, distance and shielding.
- Time: Minimizing time spent exposed will reduce your risk.
- Distance: The farther away you are from the blast and the fallout, the lower your exposure.
- Shielding: If you have a thick shield between yourself and the radioactive materials, more of the radiation will be absorbed and you will be exposed less.
Explosions can be caused intentionally or unintentionally. Some examples include industrial accidents, infrastructure failure and terrorist attacks.
The following are some simple hints to follow and help to be better prepared in case you are caught in or near an explosion.
If There is an Explosion Indoors
- Get under a sturdy table or desk if things are falling around you.
- When they stop falling, leave quickly, watching for obviously weakened floors and stairways.
- As you exit from the building, be especially watchful of falling debris.
Once You Are Out
- Do not stand in front of windows, glass doors, or other potentially hazardous areas.
- Move away from sidewalks or streets to be used by emergency officials or others still exiting the building.