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What to do in Case of a Large Scale Chemical/Hazardous Material Emergency

Major Chemical Emergencies (printable brochure)

What is a chemical emergency?

A chemical emergency occurs when harmful chemicals have been released into the environment. It is necessary for everyone in the vicinity to take protective measures because these hazardous chemicals can be dangerous to life, health and/or property.  Typically, chemical releases are accidental, but they could be intentional, such as in a terrorist attack.

What should you do if you observe a major chemical release?

Immediately call 9-1-1 and move away from the incident site. Avoid touching the chemicals or breathing in the fumes, gases and/or smoke.  Remain uphill, upstream and upwind from the accident site.  Stay alert for any additional information and/or procedures.

Where can I get information during an emergency?

In Oakland County, local radio stations, officials and/or televisions will alert residents of an emergency. If necessary, you will be informed whether you should shelter in place or evacuate the area.

Protecting yourself during a major chemical release

During a chemical emergency, you may need to evacuate the area or shelter in place.

Evacuate the area:

  • If you are told to do so, evacuate the area immediately.
  • Only grab the necessities such as medicine, first aid kit, money, driver's license, cell phone, etc.
  • If time permits, take your emergency supply kit.
  • Remain as calm as possible.

Sheltering in place:

  • If possible, seek shelter in your home or in a building.  If there are no buildings in the area, remain in your car.  Do not stay outside.
  • If you are in your car, close all windows and vents and turn off heat/air.
  • If you are at home, gather your emergency supplies kit, family and pets and go to your pre-selected room. This room should have the fewest openings to the rest of the house and be above ground level to avoid vapors that sink. Make sure to turn off all heating and cooling systems, close fireplace dampers and lock all doors and windows. When everyone is in the pre-selected room, seal windows, doors and vents with pre-cut plastic sheeting and tape. Listen to a radio or TV for updates. Remain indoors until given "all clear."

During an emergency...

  • Do not go to your children's school.  They have plans and will be handling the situation.  Your arrival will only impede the process.
  • Do not panic.  If you follow the instructions given by officials, you and your family will be safe.
  • Do not touch or go near the spill site.
  • Do not repeatedly call 9-1-1.  Only call emergency service if you have an emergency. 
  • Do not leave your shelter until you are given the "All Clear."

What happens after a major chemical incident?

  • Do not return to the incident site or leave your house until officials say it is safe.
  • Follow decontamination procedures recommended by your local authorities.  If you believe you have come into contact with the hazardous material(s), immediately seek additional information and/or help.
  • Follow local instructions concerning the safety of food and water.
  • Once all clear is given, open all vents and windows and turn on all fans in the house to provide ventilation.
  • Place all contaminated clothes into a plastic bag and dispose of them appropriately.
  • Ask local authorities how to properly clean up your land and property.
  • Report any lingering smells or hazards to your local authorities.

Making a family emergency plan

Discuss what to do in the event of a chemical emergency.

Pick three places to meet:

  1. Outside your home, in case of an immediate emergency, such as a fire.
  2. Outside your neighborhood in case you are evacuated.
  3. Choose a room in your home to shelter in place in case of a chemical emergency. This room should be above ground level to avoid vapors that sink.

Create an Emergency Supplies Kit

Create an emergency supplies kit containing a flashlight, extra batteries, first aid kit, money, medicines, map, food and water for at least 72 hours, battery powered radio, pre-cut plastic sheeting, duct tape and other necessities.