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CHEMICAL ACCIDENTS

A. General Information

The likelihood of a county suffering a major disaster caused by a chemical accident has escalated because of the increase in everyday use of chemicals by all segments of our population as well as the movement of chemicals by all types of transportation.

B. Citizen Cooperation with Authorities

Prompt reporting of a chemical accident is every citizen's responsibility. Local authorities, and particularly the emergency services (police, fire, etc.) need factual information upon which to base decisions on how to respond to the accident. For example, they must be able to correctly answer questions from the news media so that erroneous reports are prevented.

A citizen should not spread rumors. If he is a witness but not a casualty, he should tell the authorities exactly what he saw. If not a witness, the citizen should keep posted via radio or TV but not rush to the scene since this causes serious obstructions to the emergency services who are attempting to save lives and property. A citizen at the scene is needlessly exposing himself to injury, particularly if chemical reactions take place.

C. Emergency Treatment of Casualties

A citizen may find himself administering emergency first aid to a victim of a chemical accident or to himself. The treatment described in this section is limited to emergency procedures which anyone can administer. The first-aid measures suggested lean heavily on the use of running water because it is available most anywhere and will remove chemicals by solution, dilution, and mechanical action. These measures cover four of the principal types of chemical threats to people: (1)Inhalation; (2)Skin Exposure; (3)Swallowing; (4)Eye Exposure.

Inhalation

1. Remove person(s) to an uncontaminated atmosphere. If the person(s) has been overcome, do not attempt a rescue without the protection of proper respiratory equipment, preferably some form of self-contained breathing apparatus. Remember, a gas mask does not protect against atmospheric oxygen deficiency, nor is it effective in high concentrations (2 percent volume is the usual limit) of chemical vapors. Remember also that even though a self-contained air supply mask is worn, injury can occur through exposed skin surfaces if the air contaminant is an irritant or can be absorbed through the skin.

2. Have the person(s) lie down and keep him warm. If breathing is difficult, a sitting position may be more comfortable. If unconscious, see that his tongue does not fall back and obstruct his breathing. If vomiting starts, turn on side or face downward to prevent inhaling vomited material.

3. If breathing has stopped, shout for help and start any effective means of artificial respiration. Continue until breathing is restored or a physician arrives to take charge.

An effective means of artificial respiration is one which the rescuer knows best how to perform. Mouth-to-mouth breathing is the most effective method now known. The back pressure-arm lift method is next most efficient. The Schafter prone-pressure method may be also used.

4. If breathing becomes difficult or color of the patient becomes blue-grey, check for an obstructed airway. If the airway is clear, oxygen may be given by face mask, but only by someone familiar with the use of the equipment and authorized to do so.

5. Call a physician as soon as possible or send someone to do this. Make sure the physician knows where he is needed and why he is needed.

6. Never leave an unconscious person unattended.

7. Never attempt to give an unconscious person anything by mouth.

Skin Exposure

1. Small exposures of the skin should be promptly flooded with water and followed by thorough, gentle scrubbing with soap and water.

2. Contaminated clothing should be removed and the underlying skin washed with running water followed by soap and water.

3. If large skin or clothing contact occurs, the person(s) should be hurried to the nearest shower and clothing removed while standing in the shower. The skin should be thoroughly washed with water in the shower followed by gentle scrubbing with soap and water.

4. Contaminated clothing should not be worn until laundered..

5. A physician should see those cases which show skin effects from the exposure or in whom symptoms of systemic illness appear.

Swallowing

1. Cause the victim to vomit as quickly as possible. This may be done by having him drink a lot of water then sticking a finger down his throat. Another effective means of causing vomiting is to drink a glass of warm water in which a tablespoon of salt has been dissolved. CAUTION: If strong caustic chemicals have been swallowed, vomiting may rupture damaged tissue. Never give an unconscious person anything by mouth.

2. Call a physician at once.

3. Keep the victim lying down and keep him warm and comfortable.

Eye Exposure

1. Take the victim immediately to the nearest water fountain or other source of clean running water.

2. Spread the lids with the fingers and allow the water to flood the eye.

3. Roll the eye about so that the water may contact all eye surfaces.

4. Continue such emergency washing for 15 minutes.

5. Take the victims to a first-aid station or to a physician as soon as possible after the emergency washing period is completed.

Severe Exposure

Holzer Medical Center has a 24 hour De-Contamination team on duty. For severe exposures, report to the hospital and be sure to tell the Emergency Room nurse that chemicals are involved so the team can be activated. If you can, have someone call before you get there, so the DECON team can start setting up the equipment necessary for DECON.

Shelter in Place.

Whether at home or work, here's what you need to know to Shelter-In-Place.

BEFORE AN EMERGENCY

Discuss shelter-in-place procedures with family and co-workers. Determine your day care center's policy on shelter-in-place. Select a room with few windows and doors to be used in case of an emergency. Equip this room with following items:

plastic sheeting

water

flashlight

towels

fresh batteries

duct tape

first aid kit

non-perishable food

battery-powered radio

things to amuse children or self and Shelter-In-Place instructions

IN AN EMERGENCY

Turn off heating or cooling system.

Go to designated room.

Cover all doors and windows with plastic sheeting and duct tape.

Do not use the phone.

Turn on radio or TV.

Listen to and follow emergency instructions.

Wait for all clear signal.