What to do in a chemical emergency

Chemical agents are most often poisonous gasses or liquids that have toxic effects on people, animals, or plants. If inhaled, swallowed, or absorbed through the skin, chemical agents can cause serious health effects, or even death.

Download and share this video resource to inform local populations about how to stay safe during a chemical emergency.

Symptoms of toxic chemical exposure 

  • Unexplained skin or eye irritation
  • Nausea
  • Disorientation
  • Breathing difficulties
  • Burning in the nose, throat and lung
  • Animals may show similar symptoms when exposed to toxic chemicals

What to do in a chemical emergency

If you recognise a chemical threat, get away immediately and follow these steps: 

  • Cover your nose and mouth
  • If you are outdoors, move up-wind away from the source. Find the closest building to shelter-in-place.
  • Shelter in an internal room without windows, if possible.
  • Avoid basements or cellars. Toxic gasses may be heavier than air and accumulate in low areas.
  • Close all doors and windows and turn off all ventilation, including furnaces, air conditioners and fans.
  • Seal the room. Duct tape and plastic sheeting is best, but other items like plastic trash bags and towels can be used if necessary.
  • Listen for official instructions from authorities on the radio, TV or online.
  • Do not leave the safety of a shelter to go outdoors to help others until authorities say it is safe to do so.
  • If you are affected by a chemical agent, decontaminate yourself and help others decontaminate.

How to decontaminate   

  • Remove all clothing. Cut off clothing normally removed over the head to avoid contact with the eyes, nose and mouth.
  • Do not remove clothing if it is stuck to the skin.
  • Flush irritated eyes with water.
  • Put contaminated items into a plastic bag and seal it.
  • Wash skin with soap and water.