Hazardous Chemical Spills

Exposure to hazardous chemicals that have been spilled or released can cause serious or even fatal injury. In the event of such an incident the emergency services will identify the nature and level of danger and tell the public what to do.

You may be asked either to remain in the protection of your home or workplace and seal windows and doors, or to evacuate the area. If the chemicals have a higher density than air, emergency services may ask you to move to higher ground. For your safety, in all circumstances, follow the advice of the emergency services.

If a spill or other chemical release occurs it is important to:

  • Call 999 or 112 and inform the emergency services.
  • Stay away from the scene.
  • Attempt to get upwind of the contaminated area.

If you are asked to stay indoors following a chemical spill:

  • Stay inside and close and lock all windows and external doors.
  • Ensure that keys are readily available, or that you have an accessible escape route if you need to evacuate.
  • If advised by emergency services, turn off all fans, heating and air conditioning systems.
  • Close any fireplace vents.
  • Close internal doors to reduce air movement.
  • Gather your emergency kit and make sure the radio is working.
  • Go to an internal room, ideally one at ground level with no windows.
  • If advised to do so, use duct tape or other wide tape to seal all cracks around the doors and any vents into the room and seal windows with plastic.
  • Continue to monitor radio or television bulletins until you are told all is safe or you are advised to evacuate - emergency services may later call for the evacuation of specific areas in your community and issue specific instructions.

If you believe a toxic chemical has been released in a closed space such as a tunnel, underground railway or building:

  • Leave the contaminated area by the quickest route - this is generally in a direction at right angles to the wind direction. Then consider moving to a location upwind of the contaminated area.
  • Call 999 or 112 and alert the emergency services.
  • If you have any of the chemical on your body or clothes, avoid touching your mouth and eyes, remove your outer clothing and do not leave the area. For your own safety and that of others you will then need to be decontaminated by emergency services before you receive any medical treatment that may be necessary.
  • To help emergency services identify the chemical, keep track of your symptoms including your breathing, heart rate, perspiration, dizziness, blurred vision, skin tones and report them as soon as possible.
  • Use caution in helping others who may be contaminated as you may become affected.

Further Reading