What to Do in Specific Security Situations
Accidents or attacks involving toxic substances, industrial chemicals, or chemical, biological, or radiological (CBR) weapons can have catastrophic consequences and require large scale evacuations. In the event of an accident involving the release of hazardous materials, understand and adhere to the following:
- Follow the advice of local emergency officials.
- If you are near the scene of a hazardous substance release, immediately and safely move away from the area to minimize exposure. Try to stay upstream, uphill, and upwind of the material in an attempt to avoid or minimize exposure.
- If you were in the contaminated area and directly exposed to the released substance, shed your clothes and rinse with cold water once you are safely away. Nearly 80 percent of the contaminate can be removed in this manner. Discard clothes in a trash bag or other sealable container.
- Shield yourself from the hazardous substance by blocking the agent from your body’s routes of exposure if you are unable to relocate away from the contaminated area. Routes of exposure include ingestion, inhalation, injection, and absorption. Structures that may be sealed, like buildings or a transit vehicle, may prove to be good barriers to the substance, if evacuations are not possible.
- Turning off ventilation, including air conditioners, vents, and fans, can reduce the spread of the harmful substance. HVAC system protocols during hazardous materials incidents will depend upon your agency’s policies and infrastructure.
- Be patient and remain calm. An increased breathing rate will cause you to inhale more of the contaminate.
- If a hazardous materials release is suspected outside the facility and you can not quickly evacuate the area, go inside and turn off the HVAC system. Close and seal windows and doors, proceed to an interior room, and try to report it as soon as possible.
- If a hazardous materials release or attack is suspected inside the facility, evacuate and move as far away as possible. In the event that you cannot evacuate and are in a multi-level building, proceed to a higher floor. Many toxic substances, including most chemical weapons, are heavier than air and will collect in lower or below grade-level floors.
- Do not light matches or candles or turn on electrical switches in the event that the substance is flammable.
- Drivers and operators should confirm with their employers what they are expected to do with their vehicles and customers in the event of a hazardous materials incident or terrorist attack.
- Bus and Van: Drivers should stop short of, or detour around, suspected incidents or contaminated areas.
- Rail: Rail operators are confined to fixed routes. The best immediate reaction may be to shelter-in-place and wait for further assistance and instruction.
- By sheltering-in-place, you and your passengers use the vehicle to reduce or block exposure to the substance or CBR agent. Close windows and doors and minimize air movement by turning off the vehicle’s HVAC system.
- If the substance is discovered to be on the vehicle, evacuate passengers and relocate them uphill and upwind.
Trucks and trains transporting hazardous materials are commonplace on the roads and railways. Operators and drivers should be aware of the signs of a potential hazardous material release. These can include the presence of a spill or vapor cloud coming from a tank truck, rail tank car, or storage tank, or the observation of sick or injured people suffering similar symptoms from exposure.
Another way in which hazardous materials can be identified is the presence of warning labels and placards. The most common of these are ten-inch, diamond-shaped placards found on trucks and rail cars carrying hazardous materials. Regulated by the Department of Transportation, shipments of hazardous materials are divided into nine major classifications and must be placarded accordingly.
For most materials, in the event of a small leak or spill, it is recommended that the area be isolated by at least 150 feet in all directions, while trying to stay upwind. If the spill involves a trailer or rail car that is on fire, evacuation of at least a mile in all directions is usually recommended.
Most of these chemicals are perfectly safe and stable in the appropriate containers. When released and/or exposed to heat, direct flame, or incompatible materials, they can explode, catch fire, or release toxic or poisonous vapors and liquids. All of these events can lead to serious, perhaps
life-altering injuries or fatalities. Protect yourself by avoiding contact with or exposure to these substances and report the situation as soon as possible.