Chemical releases can occur as a result of an industrial accident or equipment malfunction; or during the storage or transportation of a product even when numerous safety precautions are taken. Traffic accidents, train derailments or equipment failure have, at times, caused great concern for emergency teams and the management of a chemical release.
Fire and Rescue Services will be the first to respond to a call; however the County of Simcoe is currently developing a specialized CBRNE/HazMat team (Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear, Explosive/HazMat) capable of providing a highly trained response to a variety of hazards and threats. The emergency services team will provide direction to the public either on site or through the media. It is important that you listen to instructions and are prepared. Depending on the situation you may be requested to shelter in place, go to higher ground or evacuate; you should have an emergency kit ready. You should consider:
Ensuring that your emergency preparedness kit includes materials to allow you to shelter-in-place (duct tape, plastic sheeting, etc.).
Identifying what windows, doors, and vents would need to be sealed if you have to shelter-in-place. Include this information in your Emergency Plan.
Identifying where there is extra material (e.g. plastic tarps in a garage) which you could use to help seal off your home.
Having a "go-bag" ready to take with you in the event of an evacuation.
Including evacuation plans in your Emergency Plan: have an out of region contact, and a pre-determined place to reunite with family members if you are separated in an evacuation.
Dangers related to a chemical release are dependent on the nature of the hazardous material, the amount of exposure to the chemical (amount and length of time) and the treatment that is received afterwards. If you suspect that a chemical substance has been released in a closed area such as a subway or building, try to avoid breathing any of the fumes and evacuate as quickly as possible. If you have been exposed, immediately contact the nearest police officer, fire fighter or paramedic. You may be required to be decontaminated and quarantined until the chemical has been identified. You need to be aware of any changes in your condition and notify medical personnel of any difficulties related to breathing, heart rate, perspiration, dizziness, skin colouring and deliriousness. Initially medical staff will need to treat the symptoms until the chemical is known at which time they will know how to proceed. Some exposures may result in severe and immediate reactions where others may take years to develop. The effect of a spill does not just effect humans, but animals, the environment and property as well; clean up can be extensive and costly.
The Simcoe Muskoka Emergency website identifies two main types of spills or leaks:
1 Fixed Site Hazardous Materials Incidents
Fixed site incidents involve an uncontrolled release of hazardous materials which pose a risk to health, safety, and property from an established fixed site. An example would be a gas release at a storage or industrial site. Companies which use dangerous chemicals have detailed response procedures already prepared to deal with these situations. Often they have employees who have received special training on what to do in the event of a chemical release.
2 Hazardous Materials Transportation Incidents
Transportation incidents involve an uncontrolled release of hazardous materials during transport. They can occur if there is a train derailment or a traffic accident involving vehicles carrying chemicals. Chemical spills which occur during transport can be very dangerous. They can occur anywhere, including densely populated areas, and emergency services do not know what chemical is going to be released until the accident happens. Whenever a hazardous material is being transported, a dangerous goods label on the outside of the vehicle clearly identifies the chemical inside and provides information about potential dangers. Emergency responders are specially trained to recognize the information in these labels. They are also equipped and trained on how to respond to reduce the danger in these situations.