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Quick Response Guide


6 Steps for Initial Response to a Chemical HAZMAT Incident

6 steps for initial response to a chemical HAZMAT incident
  1. Recognize the Incident:  Quickly size up the situation and recognize the type and scale of incident you are responding to.  Activate the response system. 
  2. Protect Yourself and Others:  Establish an Isolation Zone and move outside it.  Alert others in the danger area to do the same.  Take only actions that you are equipped and trained to take.  
    DO NOT ALLOW YOURSELF TO BECOME A VICTIM!
  3. Determine Initial Response Objectives:  Remind yourself of the critical objectives that should be addressed in the first minutes.  Life safety is always your first priority.
  4. Decide and Take Immediate Actions:  Make the decisions that will support your objectives - and take the actions you safely can.
  5. Manage the Incident Until Relieved:  The first arriving responder is by default the Incident Commander until relieved. You should control the incident scene and manage and apply resources as they arrive.
  6. Transition Command:  Formally turn over incident command when more senior or more qualified responders arrive.

 

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Three Levels of Incident Recognition

three levels of incident recognition

Chemical HAZMAT Incident:  The imminent or actual release of a chemically harmful substance into the environment at levels that require urgent response to contain the release and protect humans and the environment. 

 

Chemical Mass Exposure Incident (MEI):  A chemical HAZMAT incident that produces multiple exposed victims.  The event will be similar to but more complex than a Mass Casualty Incident as victims may be contaminated and represent a hazard to responders and others.

 

Chemical Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) Incident:  A chemical MEI resulting from the deliberate release of chemicals intended to cause widespread harm.  A chemical WMD incident may involve the release of a toxic industrial chemical or a chemical warfare agent.

 

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Cues Lead to Recognition

Initial responders arriving on scene may already know if an incident involves the release of chemicals.  But you may have to make a determination given only what the scene itself can tell you.  Consider cues you can quickly gather about the incident, the environment and any victims.

 

Consider Other Explanations

The less obvious signs of a chemical release are uncommon. However, there may be other, less sinister explanations for them. For example:

  • Droughts could explain dead vegetation and lack of wildlife in the area
  • Meteorological conditions could explain the presence of low-lying clouds or puddles
  • Odors could come from nearby manufacturing plants, restaurants, etc.

 

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How to Recognize a Chemical HAZMAT Incident

Confidence in recognition is high when you detect:

  • Any ONE of the cues rated “HIGH
  • Any TWO of the cues rated “MODERATE

Event-Related Cues

Confidence

Observation of a chemical release

High

HAZMAT labeled container (e.g., placard or chemical name) nearby with damage or breach

High

Chemical-related container (e.g., storage tank, tanker truck, rail tank car) nearby with damage or breach

High

An unexplained plume or cloud (e.g., not from a fire)

High

Colored cloud or plume (e.g., green, yellow)

High

Unexplained odors (e.g., bleach, ammonia, bitter almonds)

High

Chemical-related facility (e.g., production, processing, storage, use, waste treatment, disposal) or container (e.g., storage tank, tanker truck, rail tank car) nearby

Moderate

 

Environment-Related Cues

Confidence

Low-lying clouds or fog not explained by the weather

High

Unusual number of dead or injured animals in the area

High

Dead fish, aquatic birds and/or insects in and around water sources

High

Unexplained liquid puddle or powder deposit

Moderate

Oily sheens, coatings or droplets on surface

Moderate

Clouds of dust or particles not explained by the weather or incident (e.g., building collapse)

Moderate

Unusual and unexplained dead, discolored or withered plant life in area

Moderate

 

Victim-Related Cues

Confidence

Casualties with no apparent reason or trauma

High

Casualties clustered in a geographic area, especially downwind from incident scene or in low-lying areas

High

Same medical symptoms in multiple victims not explained by the incident

High

Breathing difficulty, coughing not otherwise explained (e.g., building collapse)

High

Burns or irritation on skin (not from fire)

High

Tearing of eyes not otherwise explained

Moderate

Disorientation not otherwise explained

Moderate

 

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How to Recognize a Chemical MEI Incident

Confidence in recognition is high when you detect:

  • Any ONE of the cues rated “HIGH

IF A Chemical HAZMAT Incident AND

 

Event-Related Cues

Confidence

More than 10* victims observed that are “down” or require urgent and medical treatment.

High

Potential that more than 10* persons have been contaminated by or are in the Isolation Zone for the Chemical HAZMAT Incident

High

Any incident that could cause multiple casualties combined with potential exposures or contamination (e.g., major transportation accident, building collapse) at a location where 10 or more* persons could be affected

High

*Use local definition of number of patients for MEI if known.

 

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How to Recognize a Chemical WMD Incident

Confidence in recognition is high when you detect:

  • Any TWO of the cues rated “MODERATE

IF A Chemical HAZMAT Incident OR a CHEMICAL MEI AND

 

Event-Related Cues

Confidence

Credible threat of a terrorist attack applicable to the area

Moderate

Bomb or munition-like debris

Moderate

Debris that could have been caused by an explosion

Moderate

Unexplained persons wearing personal protective equipment (PPE)

Moderate

Unexplained discarded PPE

Moderate

Explosion with little or no structural damage

Moderate

Device that may have dispersed a mist or vapor

Moderate

Oily sheens, coatings or droplets on surface

Moderate

Unusual or unauthorized spraying in the area

Moderate

Suspicious persons urgently leaving the area

Moderate

 

Victim - Related Cues

Confidence

Multiple casualties exhibiting similar symptoms

Moderate

Mass casualties with no apparent reason or trauma

Moderate

Sudden unexplained weakness, collapse, apnea, or convulsions

Moderate

Dimmed or blurred vision

Moderate

Hypersecretion signs and symptoms (such as drooling, tearing, and diarrhea)

Moderate

Inhalation signs and symptoms (eye, nose, throat, chest irritation; shortness of breath)

Moderate

Burn-like skin signs and symptoms (redness, blistering, itching, sloughing)

Moderate

 

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Declare And Activate the Emergency Response System

Recognition of a Chemical HAZMAT, Chemical MEI or Chemical WMD Incident should trigger immediate notification of the emergency response system / network. 

A Chemical MEI or Chemical WMD Incident may require rapid activation of large and specialized resources
to save lives.

 

The notification should include a short form of key information about the event, as prescribed by local protocol or SOG.  In the absence of a local SOG, a variation of the widely used METHANE protocol can be used:

  • Incident: Declare a HAZMAT, HAZMAT MEI or HAZMAT WMD Incident
  • Exact location: The precise location of the incident
  • Type: Chemical HAZMAT, Chemical MEI, or Chemical WMD Incident
  • Hazards: Both present and potential
  • Access: Best route for emergency services to access the site, or obstructions and bottlenecks to avoid
  • Numbers: Estimate of numbers of contaminated, casualties, dead and uninjured on scene
  • Emergency services: Which services are already on scene, and which others are required

 

Info

Description

Incident

▢  HAZMAT

▢  HAZMAT MEI

▢  HAZMAT WMD

Location

 

Type

 

Hazards

 

Access

 

Numbers

 

Emergency Services

 

 

 

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