What to Do at the Scene of a Chemical Accident

  • Call 911 or the local fire department to report the nature and location of the accident as soon as possible. Alerting local authorities to a major chemical emergency immediately may help reduce potential injury or damage.
  • Move away from the accident scene and help others away. Minimizing the time you are exposed reduces your risk of injury from breathing toxic chemicals. Some chemicals may ignite or explode.
  • Stay away from the spilled substance and avoid touching it. If you are not sure of a substance or its effects, wait for authorities on the scene to advise you of proper medical care or attention to minimize injury.
  • Try to avoid inhaling gases, fumes, or smoke. If possible, cover your mouth with a cloth while leaving the area. Many chemicals can damage breathing passages.
  • Stay away from accident victims until the hazardous material has been identified. Once a substance has been identified and authorities indicate it is safe to go near victims, you can move victims to fresh air and call for emergency medical care. Remove contaminated clothing and shoes and place them in a plastic bag. Cleanse victims who have come in contact with chemicals by immediately pouring cold water over the skin or eyes with running water for at least 15 minutes, unless authorities instruct you not to use water on the particular chemical involved. Minimizing your exposure will decrease potential injury.
  • Try to stay upstream, uphill, and upwind of the accident. Chemicals may be carried by water, gravity, or wind. Minimize your exposure.